As collegians in the late Sixties and early Seventies in Madras we had few avenues for amusement. Orkut, Facebook and Twitter were all non-existent and even mobile phones and SMS had yet to make a debut. To get over the ennui inflicted by sleep-inducing lectures, our gang of four used to patronise cinema theatres, pocket-money permitting.
Those were the days when western films were the rage and fortunately there were a couple of theatres, Casino and Odeon, which used to screen English films right through the year. The tickets were cheap but we had always to endure a hostile Sun beating down our backs as we stood in serpentine queues to get our tickets. Once in, Sergio Leone & Co took over and treated us to such classics as One Silver Dollar, A Fistful of Dollars, and For A Few Dollars More. Blazing guns, curvaceous dames and macho heroes kept us always at the edge of our seats, soaking in the action, blood and gore. I distinctly remember the stars of those films, the tall and gangly Clint Eastwood, the beefy Lee Vaan Cleef and Eli Wallach the comedian who joined the duo in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
They all rode steeds with rippling torsos and glistening manes, revolvers slung across their waists and were always quick on the draw. Later came Franco Nero, playing the dreaded Django, the glint of steel in his eyes who usually arrived in town, an empty hearse in tow, hunting for his prey to claim his bounty. Django stretched things a bit too far and usually shot down hundreds with the ease of swatting flies, while the Sheriff, of course, looked the other way. The westerns later turned into comedies with the Trinity series. The gaunt and menacing guys in the earlier films were replaced by a couple of entertainers, the sharpshooter with the sky blue eyes, Terence Hill and the tall, bearded and heavily built Bud Spencer.
These were perhaps the last few films that we savoured for soon the westerns became a thing of the past. Bond arrived with style, élan and class and Hollywood turned tech-savvy with a vengeance. Obviously the Wild West has been conquered and does not exist, except perhaps in the novels of Lous L’Amour or J T Edson.
Yet as I look back at those olden times when the world was a much better place to live in, the traffic and the population were within manageable limits and technology had not yet turned us into computer addicts, one remembers the smoking guns, the sand and the desert, the coyotes, the vultures and the films in toto that were always a gratifying experience.