When watching a movie alone isn’t what you bargained for

In the darkness of the movie theatre all my worries fade, the world falls back and fades to black. It’s just me and the story. Or is it?

Of late I have come into my own watching movies alone in the theatre, so I was surprised when I didn’t want to see Fitoor alone. I had asked a friend but she was busy, so here I was. I was embarrassed that I would look like some loser (we might be  losers but we surely don’t want to look like one) because it would be the Valentine’s weekend. The worst time on the planet to be alone, bombarded by mush from all sides (you can only escape it on the moon) and the marketing gimmicks are scaled up to such levels that sometimes I doubt it’s a conspiracy against singletons (Thank you Bridget Jones!). If there was ever a time to declare to the world that I am happy watching movies (romantic or otherwise) alone, then the time is now.

My friend cautioned me not to go see Fitoor on Friday as I am not too fond of crowds. It was a Friday and a holiday so a crowd was expected. On Saraswati Puja, instead of paying obeisance at the feet of the goddess of learning, how was I to know that people will rush to the theatres and bow down at the altar of entertainment.

1146 a.m. A burgeoning crowd outside and the door is yet to open. And here we were irritated because the lift opened at every floor (nobody got in seeing how many people were already crammed inside). I could almost hear the collective sigh of frustration.

1150 a.m. I am in my seat. None of my seat mates (I don’t know what else to call them) have arrived and I wished no one would but it was the first day and the last four rows are always in demand.

I’m not the only one who came alone to watch a romantic movie before the  V-day weekend and this fact fills me with glee. There’s a guy in the row in front of me, who’s sitting alone, nearly in the middle of the row. He will be squished by unknown people on both sides. An uncomfortable proposition. I always take the aisle seat so that one side is always empty. A guy came and sat in the seat next to me and he’s flying solo too.

I looked around and saw too many guys in the audience. I thought they abhorred romance. The Katrina Kaif effect, I guess. It doesn’t look like it is going to start any time soon. One is always punished for being on time. The rest of the seats in my row are still vacant.

12 o’clock. The lights are on. Why do they do this every time for the 1145 a.m. show? They begin right on the dot for the morning shows, when people could actually use the time. Meanwhile the rest of my row has arrived and finally the lights dimmed and promos of upcoming movies have started playing, followed by the “No Smoking” advisory (which is a monumental waste of time), at which the entire hall jeered.

1205 p.m. The movie begins. Finally.

I thought no interruptions now but a girl turned up right in front of me, who could not find her seat and was asking a guy for help; he was sitting in his seat comfortably watching the movie. The attendants vanish when you need them the most. I bet they are watching the movie, too engrossed to help people (latecomers) find their seats. Why do people come so late and shine the phone light into the eyes of innocent and punctual movie watchers? I want to yell but obviously I don’t because I have been late on more than one occasion (though I always keep my phone light down).

When the theatres are filled to the brim like this and there is too much chatter, I remember how much I enjoyed the movies I saw in the half empty ones, without any interruption. The guys in my row cracked jokes and laughed at the most inopportune moments. You know, in sitcoms how the laughter is cued in after a scene that is supposed to be funny? This was no different but here it was far from funny. Their laughter spurred others on.

We are here for total immersion folks. For an experience which will not be repeated. No derailing will be tolerated. Do I have to say please to get my ticket’s worth?

Even though I had gone to the movie alone and the guy sitting in the next seat had come alone, we left and came back from the interval together (weird coincidence), he with a soft drink and I, with an ice cream. Then, we immediately buried our noses in our smart phones, the prospect of conversation awkward, if not unwelcome. Lost souls who are not only watching a movie alone together but who do not even have money for proper food, thanks to steep pricing at Inox (insert sad emoticon here).

I found it annoying that he (my neighbour) was in my peripheral view, when he took sips from his drink and the way he sat with his hands folded in front of him. He checked his phone discreetly when there was a call. He didn’t laugh loudly or mutter anything under his breath, which I did, on occasion. Perhaps he found me more annoying and much more of a distraction, than I considered him.

Would it have been better if I had just looked straight at him and acknowledged his presence instead of trying to avoid him the entire movie? When the movie ended I got up to leave while he was still sitting (I guess I was not the only one who was surprised by the abrupt ending) and walked out of the theatre without looking back. I still regret not taking a good look at his face.

The sole reason to go see a movie in the theatre, is to see something magical unfold, to be lost in the world created by the movie. Not sit fidgeting in the seat, making up stuff and being aware of the movements of people sitting next to me (I know how ridiculous and pathetic that sounds). Alas, we do not live in an ideal world.

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