One of the things I try to avoid talking about, because it invites abuse from people, is my ancient dislike of samosas. Actually it isn’t so much active dislike, more a general feeling that the greasy little things can very comfortably be avoided. I've never understood the near-universal reverence they inspire (especially the veg ones, which are of course the most commonly available ones – and even more especially the ones that are stuffed with hard peas, a vegetable I’ve never been able to clasp to my heart). Also, taste aside, samosas seem to encourage a very particular sort of social bonding that sends shivers down my spine.
This is why I was astonished to find myself munching frenziedly into a maha-samosa at the Delite Cinema cafeteria near Daryaganj a few days ago, while doing legwork for a story about various types of movie-watching experiences in the National Capital Region. Ten minutes earlier, when Shashank Raizada, the company MD, told me that their samosas were the best in town, my reaction was stoical at best, but it turned out this wasn't just PR talk. Besides being at least twice as big as any other samosa I've seen, the thing was crisp and firm on the outside, soft, warm and generously filled on the inside (no hard peas, thankfully) and made for a more-than-decent mini-lunch.
Samosas apart, this post is a plug for the recently revamped Delite: I strongly urge that anyone who lives within 7-8 km of the place should make it their movie-hall of choice; even if you’re at the opposite end of town, do try to visit it once or twice at least. The balcony tickets are priced at just Rs 85, half of what you’d pay at most multiplexes for a weekend show (including for seats that are just 3-4 rows from the screen), and the interiors are easily the best-looking of any movie-hall I've seen in or around Delhi. It was quite an eye-opener for the south Delhi chauvinist in me, used to thinking of the Asaf Ali Road area as a less-than-happening part of the city.
Raizada has spent a huge amount of money in renovating the old 980-capacity hall as well as inaugurating a new 148-seater, and when Delite reopened late last year, it had brocade-fabric seats, fancy woodwork and a striking hand-painted dome. Perfume dispensers line the auditorium walls and even the restrooms have a waiting area with lounge seating and expensive enameled glass on the doors. I know none of this is imperative to the movie-watching experience, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, especially given the way even the most shabbily maintained multiplexes continue to fleece us. Besides, the hospitality is top-notch: unlike most halls that won’t let you in until 10 minutes before a show begins, Delite has a special seating area near the cafeteria set aside for balcony ticket-holders to lounge in. And did I mention the maha-samosas?
P.S. Delite is a great surprise, but it's also an anomaly in a part of the city where movie theatres have rapidly been shutting down. It didn't take long for me to return to earth with a bump – or several bumps, along Old Delhi's broken roads. After a 15-minute auto ride, I reached the theatre quaintly known as "Moti Talkies", located near the Red Fort. Moti is a haven for (attention, Arnab) Bhojpuri-film lovers and I had a lot of fun studying the posters on the wall outside. Most of the movies shown had titles borrowed from old Hindi films – Ram Balram, Chacha Bhatija – which weren't stunningly classy to begin with. Written on the posters were evocative lines like "Tu hui daal-bhaat chokha, hum hai aam ke aachar" (the flavour is lost in translation, so don't ask for one) printed on pictures of buxom heroines, street-Romeo heroes trying to look cool in shades, and leering policemen twirling phallic batons. (Another tagline: " Hero Honda leke laagal ba humra peeche goonda." And a couple of others I won’t mention here but which I’ve been practicing on the wife.)