Dear Cinema,

Sometimes I wonder if cinema has been the sole reason for me and my family to be where we are now. "Dear Cinema,” is a way for me to understand myself and my father through cinema and its many worlds.

Sometimes I think about how cinema suspended me and my family from reality. My family would have been very different if my grandfather had not left his hometown with dreams of becoming an actor. He was fascinated by the image of an actor that he saw on screen.

When I was 14, I took off from school to watch my favourite actor’s movie being filmed at an abandoned hotel. I was only there for a photo with the actor, but more importantly, I wanted to see him in person. I’ve seen his image on the big screen, but what is he like in reality? I can recall how exhilarated I felt when he glanced at me for just a second.

Was it the same feeling that made my grandfather leave his town to become an actor?

Was it the same feeling that made my father struggle all his youth, only to make a fleeting appearance in a film? 

What creates this allure towards cinema? What are its rules and what defines success or failure? How far is one prepared to go based on the idea of an illusory art?

Cinema gave my family a time under the spotlight but the life we constructed around it crumbled after the death of my grandfather. It was my father who lead me into the world of cinema and while he too dreamt of becoming an actor, his dream was star crossed. He used to screen films in movie theatres and this was his way of staying connected to the field. 

When one begins to look for answers to a recurring dream passed on from father to son, one finds oneself on the threshold of dreaming and waking. And when that line of separation becomes visible, even a little, the bigger picture comes into focus.

Cinema is a make-believe world made real for some. And for my grandfather, who was an actor, the illusion extended beyond the stage. It was his reality. My father, on the other hand, found a way to be a part of it in his own terms. His daily life completely revolves around cinema and he spends most part of his day watching old films from the fifties and sixties.

While we shared a close bond during my childhood, at some point in time, I began to drift away from him. To confront the distance between us, I began to photograph him. There exists generational trauma within the family, and I am looking for ways to overcome it. 

For the last 10 years, I have been working on “Dear Cinema,”. The process became an exploration to understand myself and my father through cinema and its many worlds. 

The more I worked on this, the more I understood what cinema gave and what it took.

© Balaji Maheshwar - My father Maheshwar looking inside his cupboard
i

My father Maheshwar looking inside his cupboard

© Balaji Maheshwar - Curtain inside a cinema hall that was shut down
i

Curtain inside a cinema hall that was shut down

© Balaji Maheshwar - A car parked inside a cinema hall that was shut down
i

A car parked inside a cinema hall that was shut down

© Balaji Maheshwar - Image from the Dear Cinema, photography project
i

Maheshwar inside a cinema hall that was shut down .This was a cinema hall where he used to screen films for part-income during my childhood.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Fan throw confetti during the release of a film
i

Fan throw confetti during the release of a film

© Balaji Maheshwar - projector inside the cinema hall that was shut down
i

projector inside the cinema hall that was shut down

© Balaji Maheshwar - Cinema Hall in Madurai when a show was cancelled due to lack of audience.
i

Cinema Hall in Madurai when a show was cancelled due to lack of audience.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Maheshwar watches films everyday and this becomes his daily ritual, particularly the films from the era of his father.
i

Maheshwar watches films everyday and this becomes his daily ritual, particularly the films from the era of his father.

© Balaji Maheshwar - A diary entry of Maheshwar where he written that I was born on the day he screened a film called selvam
i

A diary entry of Maheshwar where he written that I was born on the day he screened a film called selvam

© Balaji Maheshwar - Image from the Dear Cinema, photography project
i

My father Maheshwar as a Hindu god Krishna. This is from the look test I created for my father using archival material I bought.Look tests are a form of forgery, photographs in which an actor's face is superimposed on existing images to see if they fit a particular role.

© Balaji Maheshwar - My father repairs tv and has kept it one above the other. His room was filled with TV at some point.
i

My father repairs tv and has kept it one above the other. His room was filled with TV at some point.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Image from the Dear Cinema, photography project
i

My father Maheshwar watches films everyday and this becomes his daily ritual, particularly the films from the era of his father.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Image from the Dear Cinema, photography project
i

My father spending time with his dog. He gave a note to me which lists down the movies in which dogs appear as actors and how being with dog helps mentally.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Maheshwar and my grandfather Kannan together.
i

Maheshwar and my grandfather Kannan together.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Fans inside the Cinema hall during the First day of a film.
i

Fans inside the Cinema hall during the First day of a film.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Image from the Dear Cinema, photography project
i

My grandfather Kannan who was an actor and politician, started his career by acting his first film with actor and late chief minister M.G.Ramachandran. My grandfather died on stage, addressing a political gathering of the party to which he belonged. His last few words were in praise of his leader.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Fans in a state of euphoria inside the cinema hall during a release of a film
i

Fans in a state of euphoria inside the cinema hall during a release of a film

© Balaji Maheshwar - Confetti thrown during the release of a film
i

Confetti thrown during the release of a film

© Balaji Maheshwar - Maheshwar suffered from insomnia and sometimes he sleeps during the day.
i

Maheshwar suffered from insomnia and sometimes he sleeps during the day.

© Balaji Maheshwar - Inside an abandoned cinema hall
i

Inside an abandoned cinema hall