Screen attractions

Bored of the Friday releases? Here’s how to personalise your movie night at a theatre near you

The movie-on-demand company 1018MB is turning the old-fashioned film club into a mega event at your service.

The conventional moviegoing experience involves buying tickets for the latest Friday releases. But what if you could decide what to watch – and persuade a distributor to screen the movie at a theatre near you?

That is the experience being offered by the movie-on-demand screening company 1018MB. The company was set up in 2015 by Soumya Tandon, Saurabh Devendra Singh, Shishir Ranjan, Santhosh Kumar Sundaram and Abhay Salve, and the aim was to create a platform that would allow users to decide the films they wanted to watch in theatres. These screenings are of the latest releases, unreleased titles, classics and fondly remembered older films. Moviegoers can register on the company’s website, select from among 300 titles, and vote for a film of their choice, depending on their location. Once a quorum is drummed up, the event is listed and a venue is selected. The screening, which is ticketed, is often followed by conversations with the cast and crew members.

In April, for instance, 1018MB has been organising repeat screenings of the recent Malayalam hit Angamaly Diaries in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. 1018MB also teamed up with filmmaker Subhash Ghai for a screening of his 1999 movie Taal at the recently revamped New Excelsior in Mumbai, which Ghai now operates. Screenings have been held of Gangs of Wasseypur, Omdarbadar, Andaz Apna Apna, Disco Dancer and Amar Akbar Anthony.

“The idea is to showcase niche, regional, old movies and foreign-language films, based on audience preference which we capture through our website’s data-analysing system when they vote or demand for a certain film to be screened in a city,” Sundaram said.

Lijo Jose Pellissery (left) and Vijay Babu at the screening of Angamaly Diaries (2017) in Mumbai in April.
Lijo Jose Pellissery (left) and Vijay Babu at the screening of Angamaly Diaries (2017) in Mumbai in April.

The company’s unusual name sounds every bit geeky and provides a hint of the background of some of its founders. Sundaram, Ranjan and Singh have crunched numbers in the banking sector before being united by their love of films and popcorn. The company name is inspired by the numerical value of 1024 megabytes –1018MB is six megabytes short of forming one gigabyte. The remaining six bytes are its five members and the complex data-collecting algorithm on which their online software works.

1018MB’s screening model is a new spin on traditional membership-based film clubs. In Mumbai, for instance, the Prabhat Film Society and the Jio MAMI film club selects the titles – classic films in the former case, new releases in the latter. The app Vkaao, which was recently launched by the PVR Cinemas multiplex chain, allows users to select a movie from its list of acquisitions. Vkaao most recently screened Ken Loach’s acclaimed drama I, Daniel Blake. The multiplex chain set aside screens but ran the movie only when a specific number of viewers indicated their interest in the film through the app.

Other efforts to sate the cinephile’s hunger for movies that go beyond the usual Bollywood-Hollywood fare are streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. What 1018MB offers, though, is the feeling of crowd curation – the idea that cinema lovers can directly suggest what they want to see and make it happen by exercising their vote – and the unmatched experience of watching a film in its natural home, which Netflix and Amazon Prime are less equipped to provide.

Student and film blogger Jatin Makwana has been a regular at 1018MB movie screenings after he tagged along with a friend for a screening of Andaz Apna Apna. “I watched excellent prints of Black Friday and Gangs of Wasseypur,” Makwana said. “It is a great platform for films we missed earlier and would like to watch on the big screen. A question and answer session with director Anurag Kashyap made the event special and different from film clubs and regular screenings.”

Saurabh Devendra Singh (left), Shishir Ranjan and Santhosh Kumar Sundaram.
Saurabh Devendra Singh (left), Shishir Ranjan and Santhosh Kumar Sundaram.

The opportunity of interacting directly with fans, which is usually restricted to film festivals, is also a big draw for independent filmmakers, who are often stymied by the current profit-driven distribution model that rewards safe returns over potential risks. Both filmmakers and filmgoers continue to cherish the coveted big-screen experience, but this luxury is not always available to the minnow movie. “We are also looking at becoming an alternative distributor of films that are not able to get a theatrical release,” Ranjan said. “Independent filmmakers who don’t have the budget to afford 2,000 screens can come to us for screenings at a limited number of theatres across cities where we have tie-ups.”

Singh cited the example of the independent Oriya film Capital I, directed by Amartya Bhattacharyya. The 2015 production travelled to various international film festivals but could not be released in the country. A movie enthusiast directed the 1018MB team’s attention to the filmmaker, and a screening was organised.

To make the proposition viable for both parties, 1018MB is tying up with production companies to gain access to their libraries on a profit sharing margin. The company has partnerships with multiplex chains across the country, including Cinepolis, Mukta A2 Cinemas and Carnival Cinemas.

To reach millennial crowds, however, the cinema sometimes has to move its physical location. Like film clubs before it, 1018MB has been holding screenings at restaurants and bars. Arthi Unni, a marketing professional with a consumer goods company in Mumbai, discovered 1018 through a friend. “The concept is nice, they are introducing films at a venue where beer is served,” she said. “People from the production are usually around to discuss the film. It makes our viewing both entertaining and engaging.”

Upcoming titles include Enter the Dragon (1973), Karz (1980), Parinda (1989), Khalnayak (1993), Hum Aapke Hai Koun..! (1994) and Johnny Gaddaar (2007). Tickets are a click away. The winning mantra is more bums on seats.

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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

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