Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Give me strength!

Our system of public entertainment needs fixing. It’s pointless to allow the performers (whether live or on screen) and the audience to be in the same room as each other, when the latter has no respect what so ever towards the former. Two incidents prompt this plea for radical reform.

I spent the entire first forty minutes of Guru dreading that something would go wrong with the movie. For isn’t a good set up always followed by a let down? Of course, there was little opportunity to worry about such mundane matters. I kept getting distracted by the trivial fact that people were still walking in, while those sitting down were waving their cell phones to these late comers in the wild hope that a dim-wit who is incapable of telling time will suddenly see one faintly-glowing cell phone for the pole star it is meant to be and head straight toward it.

On screen, we’d moved past Istanbul, the Sherawat threat had been contained. Rajiv Menon treated us to sweeping views of some gorgeous Indian village, where it rained oh so prettily, on a totally unmetallic Aishwarya [1]. I heaved a sigh of relief. Maybe this one wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Then an uncle-ji decided to sit next to me. He’d spent the last 10 or so minutes walking up and down the aisle, looking for an unoccupied seat. As I’d dreaded, he finally spotted the one next to me.

But I was soon glad that I was sitting next to this empty spot, and not behind it. You can’t just walk into a New York movie theater in January and start watching a movie. No, you have to strip yourself of however many layers of winter clothing you’re sporting. Uncle-ji did just that. He stood up and removed what felt like 20 assorted items of winter garments. Meanwhile, on the screen (yes, annoying of me to keep bringing up the movie), the heroine had run away from home and had started a cutesy-corny conversation with the hero. I heaved a sigh and started a trip down memory lane, dreaming of old Ratnam movies. Bad form to wander off like this in the middle of a movie. Old uncleji next to me brought me swiftly back to the present. It was samosa-time! He left, and came back with the damn Samosas, which he was sweet enough to offer me. If the lights had been any brighter, the expression on my face might have warned him off – but as things were, I tried to give him a polite, trying my best to convey to him the idea that I was there for just the movie, really, as kinky as it was.

What is it with desi audiences? When you see a theater showing a movie for 6:45 PM, and your watch or your cell phone or the sun or mars or whatever device you use to keep time says 7:15 PM, turn around and go away! Come back for the next show, and be on time. Just try it, once. New life experiences can be loads of fun. As a veteran at this sort of thing, I promise that this is one experience that’s utterly worth the blood, sweat and tears. I am irritated all the more by the fact that the very same set of people usually don’t stoop to such bad behavior if they’re watching a Hollywood movie. I decided I’d never watch another movie at a desi theater, if I could help it.

Who says karma is a long-drawn out process? I was punished for my reverse-jingoistic tendencies the very next day – at Carnegie Hall, where the Orchestra of St. Luke’s performed Bach’s St. Mathew’s Passion. The first 20 or so minutes were fine. Then some kid started saying something in a very loud voice. Since I was perched up in one of the Hall’s nosebleed seats, I couldn’t see where this spawn of Satan was seated. Honestly, who brings a kid to a choral performance? The kid’s chatter apparently liberated every adult in the hall to behave just as badly.

People dying of consumption should stay at home. If their dying wish is to listen to Bach, they should get their friends or family to loan them a really good CD player. They should not be allowed to attend live performances. Ditto for throat-clearers. Unless they plan to sign the next aria, they can live with a scratchy throat, can’t they? But these weren’t even the worst offenders. No, that prize goes to the jerk a few rows behind me, whom the Fates had decided to supply with some Velcro. How are you to grieve for the son of God, when the son of man behind you is very slowly ripping Velcro (as if doing it slowly kills the noise!)


Don’t people realize that it took a cosmic miracle to be in that spot at that exact point of time? Apparently, 3 of the 5 passions Bach composed are lost forever. I don’t know what quirk of fate brought this music composed by an Austrian composer 300 years ago to New York on a cold winter evening. Don’t people appreciate the miracle, the tens of miracles, it must’ve taken to simply get all these elements together in the same room?
[1] What is it with desi celebs dunking themselves in bronze paint? They have metallic skin, wear metallic make-up, and am not just talking about the women!