Bollywood Baatein: Going to the theatre, crazy?

‘We are asking the audience to step out of their homes during these dangerous times. If I don’t do that myself, why would they listen to me?’

Bollywood Baatein: Going to the theatre, crazy?

Subhash K Jha

I drove down to a multiplex in Patna for my screening of Roohi, a movie about spooks, ghosts and chudails. Aptly enough, the mall looked like a ghost town. The liftman Braj whom I was seeing after a year was happy to see me. “Sir,aap bina screening ke kaise reh gaye ek saal?” he asked.

Good question. The choice was, and continues to be, between braving the Covid and watching films at home. Much as I prefer watching my films on the big screen, I’d rather live and watch them at home. At the same time the temptation to return to the movie theatres was great. So, there I was with my friend and another couple who have always been a part of all my screenings.

For more than two hours I forgot the Covid. That’s the magic of the movie theatre. It transports you to another world, carries you away into its own universe, makes you impervious of the real world. How can we experience the same joy and magic watching a film on the computer or, worse, on the phone?

What relevance would Pakeezah or Devdas or even Roohi have on a phone screen?

Pulling me back to reality was the information that awaited me at home after I was swathed in joy for two hours. The producers of this week’s other release Time to Dance had decided to cancel their press screenings in view of the rising Covid cases in Maharashtra. Sooryavanshi won’t release on April 2 either. But Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga is still on next week even as a new wave of Covid hits humanity.

Mumbai, you might as well know, has another saga to tell. My dear friend Sanjay Bhansali has been hit by the virus. I don’t know what I can do to make him feel better, except send him his favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs every day. They are working better than any medicine for Covid. I am convinced more than ever that Lataji is therapeutic. She doesn’t agree with me, though. She thinks social distancing works better than her songs. Little does she know.

For all of us who had hoped that 2021 would fix the damage done in 2020, the writing is clear on the silver screen. Covid is here to stay. Deal with it. Return to the movie theatre at your own risk. I have. Wish me luck.

On a more heartening note, the new horror-comedy Roohi opened to an encouraging response in movie theatres which proves all is not lost yet. Producer Dinesh Vijan was determined to make it work. He got his friends like Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon to watch the film in a theatre and had them endorse the theatre-revival experience. Earlier the makers of Tenet had got Tom Cruise (no less!) to gatecrash into a theatre screening Tenet. I wonder if the audience in that theatre were interested in the film after Tom cruised in.

When I asked the lovely Janhvi Kapoor why she was doing so much physical promotion for Roohi she replied, "Sir, we are asking the audience to step out of their homes during these dangerous times. If I don't do that myself, why would they listen to me?"

If you do want the land to yield crops, you have to get down into the muddy field.

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