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By Mohd Asim Khan

Title: Delhi 4 Shows - Talkies of Yesteryear; Author: Ziya Us Salam; Publisher: Om Books International; Pages: 280; Price: Rs.395

Cinema is so closely intertwined with life that one mirrors the other like a man peeping into a lake and seeing his reflection. Will the story of cinema be complete without the mention of cinema halls - the citadels where the magic unravels on the silver screen?

For, prior to the advent of internet that has crammed the entire entertainment space into the smartphone, cinema halls were so indispensable that it wouldn't be an exaggeration to call them temples where people came week after week to worship their favourite stars, to live life along with them, to imitate their fashion and style statements and to, yes, find an escape from the grind and churning of everyday life.

And temples indeed were these halls as they provided succour and solace in the form of inexpensive entertainment to the toiling masses who otherwise had little reason to cheer in the decades following independence in 1947. The story of a cinema hall from that era is, therefore, not the story of a mere brick and mortar structure - it's the story of the spirit of these temples of entertainment.

"Delhi Four Shows" by National Award winning film critic and journalist Ziya Us Salam is a rivetting story of the city's cinema halls over the decades. Each hall has a story of its own, starting from its inception to its time of glory and then decline. The book scrupulously chronicles each crest and trough in every cinema hall's life in and around Delhi.

The narrative is deceptively simple. Deceptively because beneath the first layer of plain narration, the reader is taken through a vivid experience of hopes and desires, of hardships and failures, of grit and commitment and, of course, the story of a never-say-die spirit of these citadels of entertainment.

"Delhi Four Shows" takes a slice out of the life from the golden era, replete with interesting anecdotes and detail that transport the reader to that era. Those who have watched films in single screen halls till they vanished from the scene can almost hear the sounds and sense the smell oozing out of Ziya's narrative.

The book, celebrating the experience of watching films in single-screen era - many of whom have either ceased to exist or are on their last legs - is a story of thousands of people whose lives those cinema halls touched: owners, staff, patrons, film distributors and everyone else who has been associated with these halls.

There is another aspect: To GenY, the idea of promoting a film through loudspeakers mounted on a decorated rickshaw might sound outré, but there was a time when this was the order of the day. And so were thousands of unlettered people who regularly subscribed to English newspaper Patriot to catch a glimpse of the latest movie poster, in black and white. "Daily Four Shows" celebrates the spirit of these spirited cinema goers who, for decades, patronised the various cinema halls of Delhi.

Needless to say, the writer undertook a lot of painstaking research and put in hours of time to give shape to this marvel of a read. Additionally, his experience of watching and appreciating cinema over long years infuses a life in the narrative that pulsates through every line and every story.

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