Movies were always magic for me. I had hardly begun kindergarten and learnt the days of the week…Monday, Tuesday…when I discovered how special Sundays were. No Sabbath Sunday for a child of five! It was the day when our Mum would take me and my brothers to see a movie. Sometimes our father, would duty-bound think, that he should be a part of this scene, lest later in life we would have no memories of him in our stardust movie moments. (Of course, it is another story, once well-ensconced in his seat, buttery popcorn tub in hand, he’d have a full-belly laugh even at an over-the-top slap-stick comedy!) Movies, then and for all times later, whether in high school (no longer, for the most, a family outing), college, university remained unspeakably enchanting. Then, when a life time back, I tied the knot, the childhood family tradition of Sunday movies respooled. It wasn’t about when in University, one would, with a high-burst of caffeinated ebullience, impromptu decide to skip a couple of lectures to find oneself with a gaggle of friends, in the glowing dark of a cinema hall, believing one had gone through the rite of passage, mature enough to make one’s own decisions without ‘parental supervision’.
But back to newborn married life and movies—it was something like going back to childhood—when films meant simply being glued to the seat, open-eyed, dare blink unless you are prepared to miss a climacteric nano-second scene and when the screen flashed the, ‘The End’ despite the, ‘all things come to an end’ sigh, the movie-going experience hadn’t ended. An early supper next in line, or a double scoop of ice cream ahead of a long drive homewards. Yes, childhood relived for an ample while inspite of having become a householder! Going to the movies, despite having morphed, sadly so, into busy-rushy people, still on the cards, sans the long drives, yet the ice cream, for me at least, mandatory.
Not to forget savouring the post-movie natter—how foot-tapping the music was, how stilted the acting was, with characters as flat as card-board posters, and the dresses, so bewitching…However, as touched on earlier, with the on-going pandemic, going to cinema halls, seems to be history, nowhere on the anvil in the distant future. So though, Netflix, Disney + hotstar, Amazon etc. and etc. had started streaming before cinema halls were shuttered down, these movies, web series, serials, documentaries had as they say, stolen the show.
One could watch anything of one’s liking, at any hour, plug in those ear phones so the rest of the inhabitants of the house were not disturbed or maybe it was because the kind of curse words that threaded sentences together would go unheard. Honestly, is it macho or what, to speak only in expletives—what kind of genre of species are they catering to?! The generation of drug-fiends, weed-heads or those who think it is ‘cool’ to speak in this lingo, that is the only parlance, the mother-tongue that Generation ‘Z’ converses and comprehends. Anyways, no digressions! Now, movie-going, for the most, is a solo affair where one watches whatever and at whichever time on the phone, I-Pad, computer or television and so with this continuing quarantining, imposed or self-imposed, we recede further and further, into a Bubble. Withdrawing more into oneself…this being addressed as the need for ‘Space’—the latest term, used left, right and centre—where one resides under the same roof and ‘space’ means being left alone to do as one pleases.
Do as one pleases, with all the indulgences that go with living in a family. Dinner will very much be awaiting one on the dining table, lying warm in a couple of casseroles, to be had at any time, while binge-watching some compellingly captivating web series, which is with a literal chronic obsessiveness, being viewed till the wee hours of the morning, making the viewer hungover to the point where the day goes by asleep on one’s feet. Having one solo meal with the family passé. Last heard, T.V. table trays, selling like hotcakes.
The table-top showcasing some rooted-to-the-spot scene of ‘Criminal Justice’ or some other ‘desi’ crime thriller taking a good chunk of the plot from some popular American series such as ‘Law and Order’, `Homeland’; giving it, but of course, homegrown flavouring. Yes, with our phones becoming portable T.Vs. lorried into the loo (this inspite of the post and prevalent Covid anthem, of how one has to wash one’s hands a 100 times over, to stay one step ahead of this epidemic!) so as to not ‘pause’ an Olympian scene, to be later talked at length. To chat breezily about on Snapchat or Facetime…To return to how this individualistic, near-sighted viewing has closeted us deeper into ourselves, the cocoon advancing in strides to cold shoulder one another leading to the exclusion of the family. The family, soon to be turned into a concept. Till now, however, I am striking a most dismal note—painting only the debit side of the new wave of cinema and entertainment. All is not lost—families still, come at a designated hour, gather in the common room, curl up in their favourite chairs or comfortably jostle for space on a divan to watch a weekday Soap, and during the in-between 2-minute breaks, guess animatedly about what was going to happen next. The conjecturing taking on the thrill of a page-turning book. And yes, one does not need to set up a home-theatre, make a mini in-house PVR, with a snack bar, propped in a razzley-dazzley corner, with a munchie kiosk crammed with hotdogs, cotton candy and a coffee machine, awash with cappuccino, whipped caramel lattes, mocha…that very verandah that homes the T.V., which now beams Disney + hotstar etc. too is a home-theatre that still lives on; the same space where, come evening, the son is doing his homework, the parents trying to make sense of their joint bank account, the grandmother making designer masks out of old, made-soft-with-every-wash pillow cases and with the telly playing faintly in the backdrop to come alive when it’s showtime.
This old landscape, a picture that should not fade away, one would hope, for a long while.