Superb piece by Palash Krishna Mehrotra of ToI . I didn’t know Video Cassette Recorders continued to be manufactured till yesterday. For those who don’t know what this is about, well this is how we saw movies in 1990s. They looked like this. Those were also some times.
Anyways, Krishna takes you down the memory lane:
Today, the last day of July, is when Funai stops manufacturing VCRs. For those who thought that the VCR was dead already, no, this wasn’t the case. Japan-based Funai was the last company left and now they too have shut shop citing lack of demand and difficulty in acquiring parts. The VCR is officially no more.
If you grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s, the VCR was an essential part of childhood. It was, to use a cliche, our window to the world, that is to say – the world beyond Doordarshan.
The first time I experienced the joys of the VCR was in the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel in Bhopal. My parents were attending a poetry festival and I’d tagged along. The hotel had an in-house cable channel which played the James Bond film Octopussy on a loop. As it turns out, the second film I watched on a VCR was also a James Bond flick – Dr No. This was in Mumbai, at poet Adil Jussawalla’s flat in Colaba. The rental was Rs 20. These were still early days for the VCR in India; not everybody had one.
My parents were never too keen on it. Every time we had to travel by bus somewhere, my father would make sure that it wasn’t a ‘video coach’. To him, a video coach meant a splitting headache.
With me, it was more the fear of being left behind. In school, during morning assembly, the boys would talk amongst themselves about the latest films they’d watched, they knew the scenes and dialogues by heart – I felt I was missing out.
So I did the next best thing – go over to friends who had one. Renting VCRs was quite common in Allahabad when I was growing up. You could rent one by the hour. The idea was to cram as many films as possible into 12 or 18 hours. Friends, neighbours and relatives dropped in for these movie marathons. It was a communal affair.
Apart from the new Hindi blockbusters (all featuring Sridevi), there were certain films which were mandatory at every viewing session, like Jaani Dushman, the cornerstone of desi horror. From Pakistan, came the hit comedy Bakra Quiston Pe. The small-town middle class also built up its own canon of Hollywood favourites: Crocodile Dundee, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, House of Wax and Evil Dead.
The rise of the VCR coincided with the decline of cinema halls. Movie theatres became run down places where only unemployed youth went, not ‘respectable’ families.
🙂 This story would be common to so many of us.
How technology moves in time…