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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Little idea sparks big turnaround

Memari, May 14: A big- ticket Amitabh Bachchan film free, if you are willing to buy four cups of tea during the show.

The simple formula has helped Joydeb Ghosal, a tea stall owner here in Burdwan, double his business.

A brainwave and a little investment, in the form of an old TV set and a CD player, turned his 9 ft by 10 ft shop into a mini hall, which now gives the only cinema in the vicinity a run for its money.

Not just the Big Daddy of Bollywood, dada Mithun Chakraborty, Tollywood’s young gun Jeet and old warhorse Prosenjit are also there. Joydeb decides which card, er, hero to play when.

So, when Bachchan was fighting diverticulitis at Lilavati, it was Deewar, Coolie.

After he returned to lights, sound and action, it was the more recent Sarkar or Khakee.

Joydeb, 46, a resident of Gantar village in Memari, Burdwan, about 90 km from Calcutta, had earlier found it difficult to take care of his wife and school-going daughters with his tea stall earnings ' about Rs 1,500 a month.

His daughters were in Class IV and Class V and he already had their marriages in mind. He doesn’t think that way now.

“My plan paid off. My income has more than doubled now,” he said.

Along with four cups of tea ' at Re 1.50 a cup ' customers also buy biscuits and locally made cookies in large numbers. The sale of white sticks has also gone up. “My peak hour is between 5 pm and 10. I also stop the films for the news, which some of my customers want to listen to,” he said.

Joydeb’s shop became such a hit that word spread to neighbouring Satgechhia, Bagila and Rasulpur villages and about half a dozen such stalls have sprung up.

Not everyone’s happy. “I used to sell tickets worth about Rs 55,000 every week until they started showing films in tea stalls. Now, I sell tickets worth only Rs 15,000. I have to pay salary to my 24 employees. If people can see a film for four or five cups of tea, why should they come to my hall'” said Ramkrishna Hazra, the owner of a cinema, Anandam Chitra Mandir.

In Gantar, another tea stall owner, Dilip Biswas, said he was grateful to Joydeb for his innovation. “When he started showing films, customers started making a beeline for his shop and my sales started dropping sharply. So I, too, invested in a TV set and a CD player,” he said.

Sushil Ghosh has a similar story to tell. Like a marketing whiz, he said: “We have to stay ahead of competition to survive it.”

His shop has a niche audience ' it prefers Tolly to Bolly. So move over Amitabh, Abhishek, Hrithik, and enter Prasenjit, Rituparna, Jeet, Jisshu or Koel.

Additional district magistrate Ashish Chakraborty said there was nothing illegal about the shows. “There is no organised audience and the shows don’t break any law. Moreover, no tickets are sold.”

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