Spending the formative years of one’s life in a Tea Estate gives you a set of memories which is as aromatic as the smell of tea leaves. The memories are as vivid as the shades of the tea leaves during its different stages of growth. While my mind is filled with numerous such memories, here I would like to mention about one of the most anticipated events in a tea garden during my childhood and how it had an impact on me falling in love for the first time. The event I am talking about is the ‘Bagan show' – the screening of movies in the open spaces of tea gardens during the festivals, especially during Durga Puja or Kali Puja. It was an event all the residents of the tea garden eagerly waited for, especially the garden labourers. The movies were screened for two or three days, with three movies screened per day (rather night), starting from around 7 pm up to early morning. A white screen was put up and a portable platform built to accommodate the projector. Sometimes it was projected directly from inside a mobile van. The screening venue would be filled up hours before the film began. People used to bring chair, stools, etc from their homes to sit and watch the movies. There were many people who also sat on the ground and watched the films.
Here I would like to confine myself to the events of the Bagan show during the year 1998, as it turned out to be most memorable and eventful show during my 16 years of stay at the tea garden. That year the Bagan show was being held for two days during the Kali puja. I was in Class Eight that year. Me and my friends took chairs from our respective houses in the morning and placed them at a suitable place. We tied the chairs together with rope so that no one can alter our sitting arrangements. Then we eagerly waited for the night.
The first film began around 7 pm in the night. It was Mithun Chakraborty’s film ‘Mard’. Those days Mithun was a super hero among the tea garden labourers (and even for us). His action movies were very popular. There used to be at least three movies of Mithun during such shows. We too grew up on his movies and till day I watch his films whenever it comes on the television. The film began with whistles and thunderous applause from the tea garden audience. The movie continued. During one of the numerous action scenes in the movie, Mithun in a ghastly display of prowess ripped out one hand of one of the villains. More whistles from the crowd followed. The hullabaloo began soon after.
The films were divided into several reels and as one finishes, the next one is put on the projector. Now, after the reel containing the above mentioned action scene was over, the next reel was put on the projector. It went fine for some time. Then came a scene where it was seen that the villain, whose one hand was ripped apart by Mithun, now had both of his hands in place. The realization dawned among the audience. The film reels have been put in a wrong order. Shouts started emerging among the audience and soon all hell broke loose. The labourers were furious at what had happened. They stalled the screening. We were thinking that this will be the end of our movie experience for that year. But finally the things came under control and the film screening resumed. We watched that movie and came back to our home as we were not allowed to watch the other movies till early morning.
The next day, we were accompanied by the mother of one of our friends. I was sitting right next to her. To my other side sat the sister of one of my friends. The first film of the night began. Again, as expected, it was a Mithun Chakraborty starrer ‘Military Raj’. The film had ‘A’ certification, but I guess no one cared really back then. But it surely put me in embarrassing situations throughout its running time. There were numerous scenes of physical closeness among the actors and whenever those scenes used to come up, my friend’s mother used to lower her face. I too did the same as I was sitting next to her. My eyes, however, made the best efforts to look at the screen surreptitiously. The whistles and catcalls followed all such scenes. It happened many times during the movie. I still remember the reaction of my friend’s mother when such a scene came up for the first time.
And while we were busy watching these movies, something else began in the inner chambers of my brain. The flow of Oxytocin and Testosterone increased inside me and I fell in LOVE for the first time. My heart had fallen prey to the girl who sat beside me during both these days. May be Mithun da’s action and romance onscreen had made my heart flutter and fall for the cute, beautiful girl of my neighbourhood. I still vividly remember that after that year’s Bagan show I began giving more attention towards her. She became my girl friend later and though Mithun da had no role in her accepting my proposal, I still think that he had a played an important role in our courtship.