We all have notions on what Bollywood films are like; big glam movies with spontaneous dancing and long romantic love songs! And, as you travel around India you will inevitably see splashes of Bollywood everywhere you go; from the big billboards, to your Uber driver blaring out Bollywood tunes and the kids on the street practising their Bollywood dance moves! So, with Jaipur being home to the famous Raj Mandir cinema we decided to go and watch a movie and see what all the Bollywood mania was about!
Raj Madir opened in 1976 and over the years has been used regularly for movie premieres and celebrations and has become an institution of Jaipur. It’s architectural style is completely different to anything else in India and when we pulled up outside its swirling pink facade was a real surprise.
The new Bollywood movie out at the time and the main thing showing in the evenings at Raj Mandir was Badrinath Ki Dulhania – a love story of course! We queued up outside to get our tickets from a man behind a barred window and made our way to the big brown wooden doors.
Now, I don’t know if we had really had any preconceptions of what the cinema would be like – somehow I assumed it would very much be similar to the movie theatres you get at home but perhaps a bit older looking. How very wrong we were! As the doors swung open and we stepped inside it was literally like stepping back in time. The Art Deco exterior is nothing compared to what awaits you as you walk in. I felt like I was in Great Gatsby and Josh had to pretty much stop me from trying to waltz around the floor. The walls are adorned with mirrored tiles, the ceiling is dripping in huge sparkling chandeliers and on the far side is a raised level with two beautiful lit up staircases. You can just imagine all the Bollywood stars mingling in here and sashaying down the staircases in their luxurious gowns and saris.
There is just one screen inside the cinema and the doors to it are kept closed until just before the film is due to start. You can grab the usual popcorn and drinks from the counter before heading inside. The screen is absolutely huge and the auditorium can hold up to 1,300 people making it one of the largest cinemas in Asia. There are two levels and four seating sections each different in price.
The prices for the three sections are below;
Ruby – 100 Rs
Emerald – 120 Rs
Diamond – 150 Rs
Premium – 200 Rs
We chose Ruby and this turned out to be a great view and was on the same level as Emerald which is just a little further back from the screen. Diamond is up on a balcony and Premium is a special box.
The screen is just as lavish as the lobby with a big, rouged, red, velvet curtain draped over the screen! The doors are closed by the porters and as curtain is drawn up you know the film is about to begin!
Apparently this cinema screen is usually absolutely heaving with people especially in the first few days of a new release and it’s not unusual for people to get up and dance along! We were hopeful but on this evening the screen was relatively quiet apart from the group of 20 people we had brought from Zostel as part of our evening activity! Still – Josh promised to get up and dance anyway!
The film of course was all in Hindi and being a cinema dedicated to the Hindi film industry there were no subtitles. This was fine though it certainly made it more authentic and it really wasn’t too hard to follow along! Boy sees girl, falls in love, she’s not interested, they make a big song and dance about it (literally!) , he wins her over…twice, and then they live happily ever after! The film was everything we’d heard about Bollywood; bright, colourful, cheesy, romantic, funny and of course the singing and dancing which we LOVED! By the end we were even sad there wasn’t more of it! Sadly no one got up and danced but there were certainly cheers and clapping – definitely from us too!
The film was around two and a half hours but with a ten minute interval in the middle which was a great chance to confer with everyone else on what they thought was going on!!
Despite not being able to understand a word the film was immensely enjoyable and we would recommend anyone visiting Jaipur to spend an authentic night out at Raj Mandir and watch your first Bollywood film! We’re sure you won’t be disappointed and will come out humming along wishing you were the next big thing in Bollywood…or maybe just an extra!
You never know!
C & J