A dark room with lit up eyes, each pair captivated by the magic of motion pictures. “It is the unique power of cinema to allow a great many people to dream the same dream together and to present the illusion to us as if it were strict reality”, says writer Jean Cocteau. ‘The Cinema Travellers’ introduces us to the unsung peddlers of such dreams. Following the travelling cinemas in rural Maharashtra, it gives us a peek into the joys, struggles and ambitions of these men who are united by their passion for the movies.

The times are changing and the showmen are worried. The silver screen seems to be losing its festive charm with television sets popping up in every household. Brighter pictures, booming sound and latest releases on the idiot box have made the village-folk give the talkies a miss. However, the matinee men are not ready to give up yet, even resorting to showcasing sleaze in a desperate bid to bring the masses back. Would the shift to the new digital technology keep the show running, or is it ‘the end’ for cinema itself?

Through its three central characters, the documentary transcends beyond the debate about the future of cinema and becomes an ode to the essential human spirit of imagination and creation. Technology could become obsolete, but their optimism towards the lasting legacy of cinema, which is a relatively newer art form, remains unshaken. The film experiments with the documentary form to give it a magic-realist look and succeeds at creating a sincerely moving experience. It could simply not have been so devastating to watch an old projector being broken down to scrap had the cinematography, pace of editing and the background score not been of such superlative degree. ‘The Cinema Travellers’ is indeed a must watch, for the love of all things cinema.

-Hindol Hazra