Fridays over the past few years of my life have been various degrees of eventful - from extremely, really, very, pretty, quite to, on the rare ocasion, un. In each of those cases the last working day of the week for quite a few people was, for me, intrinsically linked with cinema. Now unlike many people including quite a few of my schoolmates, I haven't always been a fan of the medium - in fact, before the turning points in my life, I could count the number of films I had watched on the tips of my fingers and toes, literally (for the number of films I had watched in the hall upon its first theatrical release in India, just one hand would have sufficed). But over the years especially the recent few, things have changed drastically - as has my life and likings.
So, Fridays. Of course, one certain occasions, the action shifts one day back - mostly paid previews of big banner releases that have hardly ever been worth the money except that I was, in each case, bound to spend the same amount a day later so why not? And besides, I love to give myself the option of writing a review free from any subconscious bias that might be due to exposure to the opinion of others. Not that I always end up writing that review - I just like the option to exist. And in any case, there's no stopping the opinions that keep getting formulated on the fly within the confines of my skull. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Fridays have always been interesting but last Friday has forced me to add one higher layer on top of the adjective cake - insanely. 10th September 2010 was special - it was more than just tumultuous, hectic, exhausting; it was - to borrow a couple of words from a popular sitcom - awesome and legendary rolled into one. It was the start of a long weekend with lots happening, not least of which was the release of a much awaited film.
So while Ramzan drew to a close even as Ganpati pranced in, so did "the last action hero" and the eternal hot favourite of the seeti-maar, toplining a deliberately over-the-top out-and-out masala film made by the brother of the now well-established filmmaker known for his set of visually engaging, obvious metaphor laden, potentially cult movies. Jama Masjid's Shahi Imam's declaration of Eid-ul-Fitr being on Saturday resulted in some confusion as to which day ought to be the holiday - Delhi as always decided to wait and watch and then go with the official announcement, but neighbouring UP including Noida and Ghaziabad stuck to Friday; Bombay and the rest of Maharashtra also went with Friday and topped it off with a holiday for Ganesh Chaturthi the following day - thus taking the opportunity to celebrate a long weekend full of fun, festivities and film. Oh yes, the film. For a moment there, I was lost in the flood of too many F-words. So having gone to the movies at various spots across two of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, I have learned quite a few things, the only one relevant to this post being this: a loud, raucous film like this, there's only one way to enjoy - in the midst of uncouth preferably rustic gentry at a dilapidated single screen cinema hall that looks like it may fall down at any time especially during the screening of such a film when any of the loud hoots seem capable of doing the trick.
Of course, you can't have it all so in your mind you need to weigh the pros against the cons and go for a solution which involves the least amount of compromise. Now before I proceed any further, you need to know certain things in order to get the proper perspective. I stay in south Delhi, an area which in an era long forgotten was populated by hard-working government officials of different designations. Present-day south Delhi is, well, a bit different. All that you need to know really is that where I am at - the south-western extremity if you exclude the cantonment, the airports and the area between the highway-turned-expressway and the yet-to-be-electrified railway track that runs parallel to it - there are only 2 single-screens left, one of which is the flagship single screen of the most hideously expensive multiplex chain of the country (hint: expand PVR). Almost all my Fridays involve a visit to this, since I can walk down to it thus nullifying the difference in price between the two; on a select few occasions, I have chosen to go to Sangam, which offers a truer single-screen experience if you know what I mean.
You don't? Alright, consider this: I was watching the recent Akshay Kumar starrer Priyadarshan film Khatta Meetha there, and both Rajpal Yadav as well as Johnny Lever were greeted with standing ovations the first time each of them appeared on the big screen. Other than that, the seats are in deplorable state, the food is so dry that it refuses to go down even with help from the cold drinks which, other than the water, are the only edible products available. Of course, one really convenient option exists in central Delhi that offers cheaper tickets, better seating, acceptable refreshments and tends to screen oddly obscure indiesque short features - but I'll talk about that later. So, I had made a conscious decision to avoid the nearest single screen because, other than the fact that I have been there so many times I know exactly how many rows it has per class and overall, how many seats each of those rows has, which ads shall be screened prior to the start and which during the interval of the film as well as the duration of each of the gaps and other segments, due to the somewhat restrictive pricing policy, the crowd tends to be multiplexish.
So, me and my friend, we deliberated through Thursday. Ah yes, the friend. I for one don't mind watching a film all alone but it's always great to have company, esp. when it is a great friend. Back in Bombay, it almost always used to be the Delhiwallah from my original batch who shared my enthusiasm of watching every crapfest of a film on the Friday of its release or, even better, before. And here in Delhi, it is this old, school friend with whom I really started going to the movies back during the last year of our school. Of course, a lot of water has flown under the bridge - he is working now and is not available on Fridays and I just can't pass up the opportunity of watching what I want to watch first day, first show so I end up going all alone. But last week was different - his office is in Noida, so he got the UP Eid off on Friday. So the day before, I told him some of my film-watching theory and before long, we were watching the last few seats at Delite disappear before our very eyes owing to nothing but our laziness and also a gross underestimation of demand.
So then, finally onto the events of the Friday in question. What finally transpired that day was a series of events each so worthy of a complete narrative in itself that it would be a crying shame, nay, a crime to give any of them anything other than an intricately detailed treatment. Of course, the current length of this post does not escape me at all so I shall take your leave now, dear reader - later.
When you first move to Bombay and start making use of the suburban railways on a regular basis, a few things strike you the most, and I am not talking about the most obvious ones here. Sure, they are extremely over-crowded, carrying just way too many passengers, a number that is significantly more than what can be called a humanely acceptable limit, especially during the peak hours when the famous English language phrase "packed like a can of sardines" fails spectacularly - of course, exactly when that particular expression became de facto in our country I can't quite pinpoint, but that is not the point here - and neither is the fact that I hate fish, their odour being, I suspect, one of the primary reasons why I don't consume them. Yes, the odour of fish – that is one of the first things that strikes you about the local trains in the financial capital of our country, our dearly beloved country that tries ever so hard to maintain its territorial integrity even though the similarity to a poor imitation of a Kookaburra or a Duke's match ball that is bursting at the seams and has been doing so for the past sixty-odd years cannot possibly be overlooked. But more on that later, I hope.
What was I saying again? Ah yes, the trains. If you've gotten used to the stink of the marine creatures, you have been initiated - and this means you are experienced enough, which in turn means that you have most probably travelled in off-peak hours which is when you get to see the next striking feature: people hanging out of and blocking the doorway. That's not strange, you say – they are there because the trains are packed, right? Wrong. That's why you need to get into the habit of reading carefully instead of just sifting through the pages. I specifically mentioned off-peak hours for a reason – and that reason being the fact that during the off-peak hours, there is usually enough space to stand comfortably while resting your back against metal, and at times even to sit down. And yet, you'll notice, there are people hanging out – which is when you realize that the people who are so used to the lack of fresh air to breathe in want to risk their lives and limbs and are prepared to dangle themselves precariously off the footboard just to inhale and stock up on as much oxygen as their lungs will permit them to.
And then, there are those freaking nagging habits of your annoying co-passengers that keep drawing your attention towards their idiosyncracies. Like, if you enjoy your peanuts that much, why don't you hold a few in your hand and lift your hand full of peanuts closer to your mouth? Does flicking those nuts one at a time (four in a row at the most, before a pregnant pause – yeah, your mouth's suddenly too small for five of them plus all that air no?) using your fingers that are strategically positioned next to your, uh, nuts somehow give you the feeling that you are shooting from your hip? And don't you have anything better to do than to eat while in the middle of a gazillion sweaty men? And in the same breath, how do you manage to read a newspaper or a magazine in that non-existent space? Or, for that matter, how do you talk on your cellphone or listen to your iPod when you are one of twenty-odd men in that square meter area (that's not some random statistic by the way – that's a figure which is often quoted in newspapers and not just those of the tabloid persuasion)? I mean, seriously, it might drop out of your pocket or be stolen just as easily as some guy, desperate for the touch of another human, reaches his hand out underneath and gropes your rear – or worse, front – in spite of him not being sexually oriented that way? And for crying out loud, stop sniffing your own damn sleeve – it's frigging irritating, stop it before I ––
"Utarne ka hai?"
Ah, dear contempt for humanity – once again, you've got me through yet another uneventful, mundane commute back home after a dog-tiring day at the office without me having to rely on any alternative form of amusement. In crowded areas, gadgets get stolen and gents get grabbed, I kid you not. Anyway, the passengers behind me have started off with their ritualistic chant - the "tsk, tsk, tsk" sound that you are bound to hear anytime a major (or, for that matter, any) station is about to be entered. Yes, fellow daily commuters, strike three – normally, and by normal I mean according to the Americanized popular culture that dictates our urban lifestyle, I would be out of here (three strikes and you’re out, I mean come on! It’s really not that hard to figure out if you, you know, just try). Fortunately for me, this is not America; unfortunately for me, this is not my station either, so while I brace myself, you take a minute or so off - and in the meantime, think up a menacing storm over an enormous wave coming in from the ocean. But instead of water droplets falling from the sky, imagine – people. And instead of water constituting the wave as well as the ocean, imagine, well, people. Come on, it's not that difficult – let your imagination run wild, although I must confess that it's much easier for me to picturize that kind of weird crap, especially from where I am right now.
Moving on, the next striking thing. If you allow the train to grind to a complete halt before you alight, you are a wuss, height, weight, age, gender regardless (although if you are of a certain gender, getting a nail job done might come in, how should I put this, well – "handy"). At any point of time after your initiation, you are supposed to jump off the train while it is still significantly in motion – the only exceptions being the presence of a major physical condition or if you were not standing in front of the doorway. Alighting the compartment is the trigger that sets off a chain of events that, like a treasure hunt, needs to be negotiated in the proper sequence. But more importantly, it is a bonsai version of the race that all us rats are automatically – simply by virtue of being in this city, unless of course you call it (or one of its suburbs) home in which case you are eligible for pardon – taking part in.
So in the morning while on your way to your workplace, if you are not hanging out, you don't get to jump out, don't get to run up the foot overbridge and then down it, don't get to take the first bus or share taxi to work, reach office a bit late on account of which you have to work extra, except that this keeps happening on a daily basis so you get fired and are now worried sick about finding a new job since you have a Himalayan debt on your shoulders which is why you hide the fact that you have been fired from your domestic partner who, thus, notices nothing different but the fact that you are getting home later every single day, because of which she suspects you of having an affair and eventually walks out on you, except that it's her place so she makes you walk the plank, rendering you homeless.
And before you know it, you are without a job, a partner and a home. The only option now is to get on that train one last time, hang out and at the strategic moment when your train is passing over the longest bridge over a really deep water body (in case you don't know how to swim) or when there is a fast local approaching at full speed on the next track (in case you know how to), let go. Of course, all this could have been avoided – your life could have been spared by none other than you, if only you had conformed. Oh wait, you are still here. And here comes my station – well, I'm off now; need to leap off and rush off into the foot underbridge (this is New Bombay – most of the bridges go down under and then come back up). You, go think about what I have said, see if you are willing to conform – else, get out of this city, or be prepared to risk all that you've got.
Find it later using Bombay
|Quick tippani -|