One film I saw recently cost me Rs 89. For that price, I had to step through a metal detector, got patted down by a uniformed security man and had a hand-held detector waved cursorily over my front by another uniformed security man. Throughout the show, two or three mutts behind me chatted on their cellphones. And the theatre itself? Plush, lots of leg room, one of those generic multiplex places that are popping up like bad news.
The film was excellent. Only, the expletives were inexplicably whited-out. So several times, we heard stuff like: "You're a magnificent ****, aren't you, Miss White?", or "Where's my *** turban?"
Well, more like "You're a magnificent [silence], aren't you, Miss White?", and "Where's my [silence] turban?"
At the end of the film, yet another uniformed security man politely directed me away from the exit I was heading towards. "That one", he said, pointing across the hall. Outside, the soul-less emptiness of downtown Sunday morning, tall buildings all around.
Another film I saw recently cost me Rs 15. No security. I walked in, up to the steeply sloped balcony and sat right next to the railing. Curved screen set on a stage (this used to be a place for theatre), whirring fans hanging on long poles from the high ceiling. The place was fuller than the other, but there was general silence through the film, certainly no cellphone chatter. Not so much legroom, but hardly uncomfortable.
The film was some way short of excellent. A rerun from ten years ago, starring three major Bollywood stars in too-gaudy clothes, and one starlet wearing a nonstop smirk/simper so painful to watch that it nearly overshadowed her too-tight outfits.
After an hour of deafening music, execrable songs, meaningless plot sequences and horrifying acting -- in short, the usual thoroughly enjoyable Bollywood experience -- I left. I didn't feel like I would miss much. Yet nor did I feel that I had wasted my time.
Outside the hall, the theatre was a delight of airy space and open windows. And from each window, throbbing verdant life on the streets outside. Handcarts, traffic, people, lights, cafes, honking, movie posters ...
And a few days later, I'm thinking: if it's the total movie-going experience I'm paying for, those ticket prices should have been switched. Rs 15 for the expletive-free film in a soul-less neighbourhood, Rs 89 for the Bollywood nonsense in the splendid old theatre in the heart of Bombay.
PS: OK, the smirk/simper did not overshadow the too-tight outfits.