Nothing remarkable happened on 24.7.2002, it was just another Wednesday. But it was a red letter day for me. It was the first time I went to a cinema hall to watch a movie. Considering I was born in 1986, which was 2 decades back, it had to be special.
As a child, I was not allowed to watch movies even on television. The hottest woman I saw on television was Tara of Chandrakanta. My mother had even shut down the TV when the Draupadi Vastraharan scene was going on in Mahabharat, so you can imagine the levels of deprivation I was going through. The logic was simple. Going to movies was not in the list of activities that would help you to go to heaven. And so I was never taken to a cinema hall. I tried hinting about it a few times, but I might have as well asked for a trip to the moon.
Not that I hadn’t watched movies. We were shown films in our hostel. Mostly English films. And in the rare moments that my mother wasn’t at home or I was at someone else’s home, I used to catch whatever little on the existing movie channels. So, by the time I had finished my Class 10, I had watched a total of four hindi movies in my life.
Maine Pyar Kiya: (Being Diwali, my mother was busy in Puja),
HatimTai: (I remember Jitendra surrounded by girls doing aerobics holding duffs. Additional bonus, Dimple Kapadia in an item number).
Lagaan: Shown at school, with the Madhuban song edited out. Frustrated lot as we were, they might have wanted to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Avatar: Rajesh Khanna is a mechanic who loses his hand while repairing an Ambasador and teaches his sons a lesson in caring for parents, with one hand. This emotional prostitute of a film was followed by a discourse on how children today do not care about their parents.
The idea of watching a film in a cinema hall thrilled me. My friends at school had described what the inside was like. I was told about the stall, the balcony, the whistling and hooting. It seemed like wonderland.
I returned home early and rushed on my bicycle to a cinema near my house that was screening Devdas – the bumper hit at that time. By the time I reached the hall, about 30 minutes had lapsed. I reached the ticket counter was looking left and right to check if anyone I knew was around. But all the people I knew were the kinds who spent Saturday evenings in Bhajans and would never come to watch a movie about a drunkard who falls in love with a prostitute and dies in front of his married lover’s gate.
The usher standing in front of the grill with his torch noticed me loitering around and asked me if i wanted a ticket. I said yes and he asked me to shell out 40 rs. If I had looked at the ticket counter, I’d have seen that the costliest ticket at that time was 22 Rs. But anyway, I was entering the hall for the first time and it seemed too good to be true. It was like a magical place. There were statues of fairies and posters of other films that were to be released soon. Even while climbing the stairs, I could faintly hear the dialogues. It felt like I belonged here.
I recalled my friends’ description of the balcony and the stall. Strangely, the man seemed to keep walking to the front rows. He kept walking till he reached the first row in the entire hall. He pulled a wooden bench from the side and asked me to sit. By then, I realised I had been royally duped. But what the heck? I was in a cinema hall.
I had to crane my neck up to look at the screen. Since I was closest to the screen, I felt like a fly sitting on people’s faces whenever they came on screen. SRK’s nose looked the size of a blackboard and everything else seemed magnified beyond recognition. If someone was at the left of the screen, I had to turn my head to the left and then look to the right again. Within 15 minutes, my neck began to hurt. I turned to look behind me. I was expecting to see people staring at the screen in awe. What I saw was a bunch of rickshaw walas and coolies, some of them drunk, the others showering Aishwarya Rai with a string of abuses I did not know the meaning of. It felt like a 3D, larger than life experience, the hero was drinking bottles of booze and the area around me stank of it too.
After 2 long hours, Aishwarya realises SRK is outside her gates and runs to meet him. After what seems like a 200 m relay race, she reaches the gates, only for it to be shut on her face. The hero lies dead, mumbling her name. The end credits roll. I stand up.
Only to be pulled back to my seat by my shirt. “Bose, sola. Hero uthibo”. (Sit down, brother in law. The hero will get up). After about 2 minutes, they realised hero wouldn’t get up. This was followed by another string of abuses directed at the hero’s ancestral lineage. The lights got switched on. Someone had thrown something at the screen and people were making a rush for the exit. And a fight broke out. No fight in Orissa is considered big enough till someone screams out ‘Maaaaghiyaaaa’. Someone sounded the war cry and a riot broke out.
I struggled my way out, losing two buttons in the process.
I haven’t forgiven SRK to date.