Friday, February 03, 2006

Thoughts From Kerala

Like the immigration officials who presume you are a terrorist before they fork out answers that may prove you to be otherwise, I presume every new Hindi film is bad till our in-house reviewer ‘Baddy’ Rangan puts his stamp of approval. Still I end up watching movies of my choice only on DVD, that too months later. The theatre is not my scene: I still tend to look over my shoulder every time there is clapping or the screeching of a car, realising only seconds later that they are part of the sound effect.

But for some reason I wanted to catch Rang De Basanti in the theatre — first day, first show. Maybe I was too taken up by the promos. But watching an Aamir Khan movie on the first day, first show is like asking for the moon. “Sold out,” a friend told me when I asked about the possibility of getting tickets. Then luck intervened in a strange way. I got to watch Rang De Basanti: first day, first show. For on the day of its release, I found myself in Trivandrum, where getting tickets for a Hindi movie is rather easy. The balcony was full, but I effortlessly found a seat in the Middle Class. For Rs 27.

The star cast on the porch of the theatre read like this: Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, A R Rahman. I guess no one else matters much here. Inside the theatre, paper bits went up in the air rented by screams the moment Aamir’s name appeared on the screen. Another round of applause burst through when Madhavan’s name showed. And the crowd went berserk when Rahman’s name appeared. After the first two rounds of applauses, I leaned to express my amusement to my companion — a young engineer, very proper and ladylike. And even before I could whisper to her, Rahman’s name appeared and she cupped her palm around her lips and went: “Vooooooooohooooooooo!” I left her alone after that.

The no-smoking-in-public law in Kerala seems to be only on papers. Of course there are menacing cops who patrol trains looking out for possible offenders, but once you are in God’s own country, you are free to smoke almost anywhere. The young men at the theatre puffed away without care — an act that would instantly attract a rebuke from policemen in a place like, say, Chennai. In fact, most of these men just stopped short of bringing their cigarettes inside the theatre: they put them out while handing their tickets to the doorman. But I have seen them smoke inside the theatre too. I was in Kannur about five years ago — the time when actress Shakeela was a rage. I had only heard of her, but never seen any of her movies. Curiosity led me to a theatre which was playing Naalam Simham (Fourth Lion). Soon after the film began, lights popped up from various corners of the theatre, and soon I was watching Shakeela through a haze of smoke. “This is the bidi capital. People have every right to smoke here,” a local friend later told me.

There is also a link between cigarettes and communism, if you believe writer John Steinbeck. In his book In Dubious Battle, the protagonist, a dedicated Communist Party worker, always remembers to carry cigarettes because he sees them as an effective tool to initiate conversation with a potential convert: “Here, want a smoke?” No wonder most old-time communists were/are smokers. E K Nayanar was a smoker. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is one. CPI veteran A B Bardhan smokes, so does CPM’s Sitaram Yechury.

Talking of Fourth Lion, there is a movie playing at the moment in Kerala called Lion, which has local star Dileep as the hero. Lion comes on the heels of Tiger, which had Suresh Gopi as the hero. What next? Panther?


Blogger Visithra said...

i love watching movies at the theater - i kinda not like dvds - i rather wait for it to be shown on tv if i miss it from its bigscreen moment.

next could be bull - panthers not very indian ;)

6:44 AM  
Blogger Praveen said...

Hi Bhishwanath,
i think we watched RDB from the same theatre at the same time....FDFS at Kripa thatre, Trivandum....WELL, did u lik the movie...din't say much abt tht....

also, those things u mentioned abt Kerala was worth reading..Even after imposing a ban on public smoking, the state of affairs here's not much to comment abt...

hey...chkout my review of RDB

10:51 AM  
Blogger Amrita said...

hmm, thats an interesting post, much 'journalistic' as i had expected to be, but i guess ur review was more about the popular movie going culture rather than the movies themselves (not that i expected u write a review of rang de basanti), but a well-written post nevertheless.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Prerona said...

shakeela!!! who that?

5:19 AM  

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