This Friday, I saw Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu all alone in a theatre. And also Diwangi Ne Hud Kar Di (yes, I 'actually' saw it and am perhaps the only person in the globe to have reviewed it as well - check Google!). Last week it was Raama - The Saviour, the week before Nakshatra and the one before that Dus Tola. I watched each of these films. ALONE.
Aur ek 200 seater auditorium.
In this week's 'Reflections', let me take you through a chronicle of how it feels to watch a film in an auditorium all alone. If you haven't suffered that pain before, let me aid in giving you some.
There are naughty eyes prying at you when you purchase two tickets for a movie show where no one else is expected to step in. 'Ahem ahem' - go the expression of that man behind the box office counter who does look at you (and your partner) from the corner of his eye and gives out that smile that conveys in a subtle and clear manner - 'I know what you would do this winter in the auditorium'.
But how does one explain to the same guy when you ask for only one ticket?
I: One ticket for 'Shahrukh Bola....' please
BOB (Box office boy) (after checking his monitor): Sir, you are the only person for the show
(A few people standing in the adjoining queue look at me as some sort of weirdo. This guy wants to see Shahrukh Bola ...., and that too all alone?)
I: Yes buddy I know your management wants to cancel the show but I won't allow that.
I (saying it loud): That's okay, I still want to watch it
BOB: Sir, if you are the only person, we may have to cancel the show
I (saying under my breath): Oh, so you said it?
I (saying it loud): Please don't. I am a journo and I HAVE to watch the film. It's a job!
BOB (says with a sheepish smile): Ok sir, here is the ticket
Trust me, it is not funny when a conversation goes like this week after week, as it has been happening with me over last one month.
Once I enter the multiplex and head for that candy bar, the CB (Candy boy) smiles at me
CB (saying under his breath): Phir aa gaya s%%la
CB (saying it loud): Your regular order sir?
I (with a voice filled with gratitude): Yup, thank you
CB: With or without ice
CB: Shall I top it with something
I: Yes, add on some Nachos for a change
Yes, ladies and gentleman, this was my CB friend who truly sympathises with me week and week and offers me services of serving regular Coke and popcorn without me asking for it. Who said you get such a personalised service (and sympathy) only at bars where you often head for a lonely night out? There is quite some loneliness experienced in theaters as well, as is being chronicled here.
As I enter the auditorium, there is a UB (Usher boy) standing out there to check your ticket. The experienced ones just make you enter the 'veeraan' auditorium and gesture you to sit wherever you want. The inexperienced ones follow the call of duty.
UB: It will be J8 Sir. That would be fourth row from the back, leave 7 seats from the right.
I (under my breath): What if I want to sit at J6? Would you allow that? Or are you expecting 199 more folks to enter any moment?
I (saying it loud): Thank you
Of course I go and sit at J6 and turn back to see if UB has any objections. No, he doesn't. And despite a false hope and expectation, none of those 199 missing people ever enter the auditorium.
Lights, camera, action and doors closed
I have passed this suggestion to the multiplexes but they still don't comply.
I: When there is only one patron in theatre, can you please *not* show any advertisements and also skip the intermission? Can you just begin it all and end it quick and dirty without making it too much of an agony?
M (Manager): Sorry sir, these are the rules. We *have* to show the advertisements. And we *have* to have an intermission.
I: But pray why?
M: (Smiles) (...and some more smiles)
Nevertheless, it is just me and only me who goes through the suffering of many more rounds of 'Hero Honda dhak dhak go', 'Shahrukh asking patrons to put their cell-phones on silent mode', the Dolby ads and some more random ads before it is officially declared that the suffering is about to begin.
Because this is the time when a Censor certificate is flashed out there on the big screen. Ironically, in case of Shahrukh Bola.., even that didn't happen.
In my movie watching enthusiasm spanning decades and thousands of films later, this has to be THE first movie ever when instead of a valid Censor certificate, just a placeholder slide came with two words - Censor Certificate'.
Sorry, this was a bit off topic, hence coming back to the experience of watching a film all alone. So here I am, sitting in the auditorium all alone, and experiencing the joy of having a movie being screened just for me. Now that's one home theatre to die for. And when the AC because a little too cool, I do have the flexibility of asking the UB to increase the temperature for me. Nice guy. He obliges as well.
How good or bad was the movie? Well, that is rudimentary in the current tale. What is of importance though is the fact that it is always terrible to watch a film all alone in a theatre. It is never funny and though you are not quite scared (after all this is not a horror movie), you do expect someone to play a prank from behind and just tap your shoulder to give you a jolt.
You know that BOB, CB, UB and M won't do that. But then what if someone else plays a prank? What if there is indeed a spirit that comes from behind? Really, one tends to loose his state of mind for those few moments when such random thoughts arise. What do I do in such a scenario? Well let me (sheepishly) admit this, I actually turn around to check if there is someone really standing right behind me. And then bring a smile on my face when (obviously) there is none.
There is a definite sense of freedom that comes in though. If I have to for that quick break from the film and enjoy a quick stroll outside the auditorium, it is pretty much akin to 'ghar ki baat'. I can walk in and out without disturbing those (missing) 199 patrons. It is like allowing the DVD in my home theatre to play on while I walk up to the refrigerator to pick yet another can of beer.
No disturbance. No questions. No obstruction of freedom.
It is my film. My auditorium. My candy bar. My restroom. And all of this for a mere Rs. 250 that I have paid for those two hours.
Worse is yet to come though, especially if you are watching the last show of the day, something that I do often. 10 minutes before the end of the film, helpers as well as guards enter the auditorium. They have to clean the auditorium ('Yes, those 199 missing patrons would have thrown all the muck around, right?', I mock) while the guards have to ensure that none of the safety regulations have been compromised while doors would be locked once the last patron (that's me, me, me) leaves.
Now I definitely sense their presence behind me.
'Kab jaaega yeh...?' [I suddenly turn into a mind reader here]
'Kya vella aadmi hai, akela picture dekh raha hai' [Yeah buddy, bol lo, ab main tumhein kya samjhaoon?]
'Ye jaae toh hum saaf-safaai karein aur apne apne ghar jaayein' [Now this is where I truly agree with you. I too am feeling the same but then a job is a job is a job. Main toh tab tak nahi jaaonga jab tak end credit roll nahi karenge!]
The worst happens though when there is a music video playing as well along with end credits roll. There are definitely 'tarasbhari aankhen' that the helpers and guards have as they truly want me to leave now.
'Ab kya gaana bhi dekhega' [My mind reading skills come handy again]
I too end up having some 'taras' on them. I do walk out. I reach home. And then I draft this piece. Hope you suffered as much as I did.