A motley group sits huddled in a corner of a bookstore-cum-cafe in west Delhi. They are students and labourers, activists and professionals - and all avid cinema watchers.
Every now and then, the group comes together to celebrate their collective love for cinema -- indie films, world classics and timeless works of legends.
In an age when a film is just a mouse click away, amateur cinema clubs are coming up across the country. The old film federations have given way to groups that showcase the best of cinema, and trigger heated discussions.
"The best thing is that more and more young people are getting involved with cinema through such clubs. A film becomes an appreciation course if it is not just for entertainment," says theatre director and actor M K Raina.
Anuj Malhotra of Lightcube, a film society, believes that younger audiences are looking for "richer alternatives".
"They manage to locate a rigour, a sincerity of purpose and an attention to detail in these films that they realise is curiously missing from the various mainstream titles they watch on a weekly basis in the theatres," Malhotra says.
At one such recent gathering in Delhi, a bunch of enthusiasts watched indie filmmaker Pushpa Rawat's 'Nirnay' and Surabhi Sharma's 'Bidesia in Bambai'.
"The discussions following a film screening are not just about the direction, acting or script; they also seek to find if the film's central theme has been treated fairly,' says Tanyaa Sharma, a social worker and film club-goer.
In New Delhi, cultural centres attached to foreign embassies often screen films from their countries. Film lovers gather to watch the best of European cinema at the Hungarian Centre, Italian Centre and Alliance Francaise, for instance.
Other big clubs - such as the Habitat Film Club - have periodic screenings for members and others. Many of the clubs charge a fee from members, while some screenings are free. Films are usually shown with the permission of film makers.
A club called Shamiana screens short films in 25 cities. Kriti Film Club shows documentaries, indie films and socially relevant cinema.
"A film is a ready chronicle of the time in which it is produced. It exists as a document of the various symbols of its era: speech patterns, fashion choices, automobiles, urban architecture, social norms, furniture trends and race equations," points out Malhotra, who spent about nine years in film society activism.
Lightcube screens films keeping audience choices in mind. If a film is being shown in a working class colony, the club invites local residents, such as labourers, to join them.
What interests many of film-goers is the discussion that follows the screenings. Watching a film on the Net, after all, is usually a solitary, or, at best, a family viewing. At film clubs, cinema is often dissected threadbare.
"These discussions leave us with a better understanding of society," Sharma says.
India's film movement took off in Calcutta when director Satyajit Ray, then still an advertising professional, brought together a group of people who watched and discussed films.
"Earlier there were film societies, now there are film clubs. When Ray started a film society, others followed him. A similar thing is happening now. They show films that may or may not have reached cinema halls," Raina says.
It was not easy then to procure films, or hire a film projector and a screen. In these hi-tech times, a laptop and a screen are enough for showing a film.
Supriya Puri, from city-based film club Cinedarbaar, believes that watching the works of legendary directors "expands people's vocabulary" of the cinematic language.
"Bringing in the masters again and again to the audience helps train their eyes to find new things and expands their cinematic vocabulary," she says.
Raina feels re-visiting films also presents the viewer with fresh perspectives.
"Aspects of film making, its script, cinematography are discussed. So it becomes a knowledge pool of film appreciators. It is a very positive movement for the growth of cinema," the veteran artiste says.
Film critic Bhawana Somaaya lauds such community activities that bring together people at a time when "they take pride in not being friends with their neighbours".
"So many people make an effort to watch so many more films in different places at different times," says Somaaya. "The clubs help cinema become immortal," she adds.