Even in the big city, Pink reignites the desi way of movie-watching
In 2000, the Kargil war was fresh in India's public memory. Indian cinema saw commercial opportunities in the nationalistic hysteria of those years. 'Hindustan Ki Kasam' was one of the many films that sought to cash in on the prevailing jingoism.
The story of this Ajay Devgan-starrer revolved around the eternal Indo-Pak rivalry. Although the movie had nothing to boast in terms of direction and its treatment of the subject, one incident during the movie left a long-lasting impression on this writer.
Small town cinema chaos
Things were already heating up before the start of the show in Varanasi's Sajan Cinema Hall, situated in Sigra locality. A group of spectators were fervently chanting 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', even while the hall was still being filled. The sloganeering abated as soon as the lights went off.
However, the silence proved to be ephemeral as the screen blacked out after a few minutes. It was a power cut, but the public was unrelenting. Soon, the commotion started - expletives directed at the theatre staff flowed freely from all corners of the hall.
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The digitalisation of cinema was still some years away. Most cinema halls played movies on the projector. The back wall of the halls used to have a small hole through which the projector light reached the curtain. An employee used to run the projector in a small room on the other side of the wall.
The ruckus at the Sajan Cinema Hall was not over yet. A head popped out of the small hole in the 70 by 40-foot-wall of the hall. It was a horrendous spectacle, a head with two large eyes hanging from the wall. "Kaun hai Bh$%&*#wala jo gaali de raha hai, dum hai to samne aaye ma#@$%&od, (who is cursing here? Come face to face, if you dare to), " the voice emanating out of the head roared.
The people, who had come to watch the movie for a ticket worth Rs 16, were hardly interested in accepting the dare. So suddenly, the hall went silent. It was a strange scene of commotion between the cinema hall management and viewers.
The movie buffs in small cities were used to interruptions due to outages or other technical glitches during shows in that era. Such occurrences are not uncommon even today in towns, villages and smaller cities. The audience responds as enthusiastically to crafty dialogues and the hero's exploits as to the reappearance of the movie on the screen after a power cut.
Changing the big city cinema experience
However, it is a different story in multiplexes cropping up in megacities. These are elitist places where movies are watched in a fairly restrained with a lot more decorum. Unruly whistling, clapping or haywire comments are not a cool thing here. Those resorting to boorishness are looked down upon.
Perhaps, the difference lies in the social and economic class of the audience. It takes around Rs 500-1,000 for a person to watch a movie in multiplexes. This means only affluent people come to these places to watch movies. It is the upper middle class that relishes the hypocrisy of a serious air and personal space.
In this context, watching Pink in a multiplex was a refreshing change last Sunday. It was as if the old memories of watching movies in a livelier atmosphere had come to revisit this writer. Such memories had almost begun to fade from the conscious mind.
But, Pink managed to garner whistles and claps from the audience, even in a cinema hall situated in Delhi's posh Greater Kailash II area. The viewers - mostly female - were reacting to the twists and turns in the movie plot with closed fists and emotional rants. Though the usual rant of 'maar sale ko' was replaced by 'kill that b*stard.'
The moral of the story; there is a free soul inside every elite person, that yearns to break the shackles of established norms; rural remnants were hidden even in the concrete jungle. In Delhi, we know it by the name of 'Lal Dora'. All it needs is an opportunity to break free and hands start raising for a high five, the unrestrained candour of expressing emotion returns. Tapping into this free soul is the real success of a film and Pink certainly succeeds there.