Features, WTF

When Bollywood Nearly Shutdown

Film trade magazines usually have a ‘this day in history’ sorta section full of useless interviews, facts, and box office figures that have no meaning any more. Some of the scribbling under a section titled ‘Tit Bits’ of 1983 includes: Himmatwala is tipped to be the quickest film to collect 1 crore in under a year (whoa!); Ramesh Sippy of BRA Enterprises promises Rs. 50,000 to whoever produces a video cassette of Mawali before its release (let’s try that now); and Subhash Ghai gets rid of abscess from his right leg and is forced to take an 11-day holiday (they counted). All this from one issue.

Some stories do, however, get you thinking. Take for example the 1983 tit/bit of how a shortage of coins was affecting the film industry. There was considerable panic. People stopped taking buses because conductors never had change, Amul Butter took a dig at it on its hoardings and people just refused to go to theaters because of inexact amounts they had to pay for tickets.

So imagine the scene when on a Sunday night, a family of 4 decide to go watch a film:

At the ticket counter-

Family-guy: 4 tickets for the 9 o’ clock show please.
Ticket-guy: That’s Rs. 2.10 per ticket, which means your total is Rs. 8.40
Family-guy (grumpy at the rising prices): Here’s a tenner.
Ticket-guy: You got 40p? I can give you a 2-rupee note.
Family-guy: Don’t you know there’s a coin shortage? I don’t have 40p.
Ticket-guy: Well I have Re 1. You’ll be 60p short.
Family-guy: Are you kidding me? 60p?! That’s too much to let go.
Ticket-guy: Like you said, there’s a coin shortage.
Family-guy: Forget it wiseguy! Honey, let’s go to Juhu Beach instead. It’s free. And a guaranteed hit with the kids.

Anyway, the crisis was resolved as the producers’ combine went from theater to theater personally carrying bags and bags of loose change. It’s true.

PS – 1983 was also the year there was an acute coin shortage in Japan because of the newly-released Pac-Man arcade.

PPS – Incidentally India is in the midst of a coin shortage right now! And nobody know why. The best theory is that beggars are slowly absorbing all coins from the market and not circulating them. The RBI is ’stepping in’ to rectify this situation but of course it’s in a conundrum given the price of chrome and nickel is more than the value of the coin. Anyway, at least you can stop blaming the paan guy for handing a out piece of gum instead of 50p and calling him a chindichor.

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Director, Bangistan. Dog-loving, technology-embracing, whisky-cradling writer/filmmaker/argumentative citizen of the world.

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