It was the latest release and we were super excited! My eight year old daughter could not wait to see her favourite actors in action! She had been primed into anticipation thanks to the slick promos on TV. We thought that we would be riveted to the on-screen action throughout. But we were not prepared for the off-screen action!
The movie had been rated U/A, and I was wondering if the content of the film was suitable for my daughter. I needn’t have worried. As soon as we got to the theatre, we saw families with children of all shapes and sizes; some running around, some arguing, some held in arms looking over the mother’s shoulder. It seemed that the children had brought the parents to see the film!
I was seated next to a family of three; husband, wife and their son of about twelve years. The seats next to my wife were empty. She was hoping that it wasn’t going to be a noisy child who would sit next to her. The boy next to me was very jerky. Each time he was bored, which was often, he would go into throes of self-induced ecstasy. He would cavort, twist his body, bend forward, arch his back, gasp, snort, grab the back of the seat and complain of hunger to his mother. She, instead of taking any action, would only meekly say, “Sit quiet”.
The film started, but we could hardly see the screen! Our audience has this wonderful habit of arriving late – sometimes even till the point of interval. So it was with this film. They kept coming well after the first song was over. Finally, a family arrived to sit down in the empty seats next to my wife. There were two couples, an older child, and horror of horrors – an infant – not older than six months! My wife and I exchanged knowing glances.
The action continued in the film. The infant seemed to disagree with it. It promptly let loose a loud wail, and no amount of coaxing, gentle rocking, or bottle-feeding could pacify the baby. It did not like the film, and that was it! Finally, the dad decided to take the baby out. A few minutes away from the wretched darkness and loudness seemed to have set the baby’s mood right. But as soon as it was brought back in, the wailing started again; “waaaah, waaaah, how could you bring me back to this!?” the baby seemed to be asking. This time it was the mother’s time to take a walk.
In the meantime, another child – no, no the infant or the jerky boy – another girl, was playing her own games. We had had an infant and an older child; now it was only fair that the three to five years category was also represented in this children’s day out! This girl also seemed to disapprove of the film’s story. No amount of cajoling the toddler into seeing how ravishing the heroine looked, or how well the hero danced, worked. An exasperated dad even tried clapping at the child so that she could catch the beat of the song playing on screen. But no! The little girl had her own way of entertaining herself: crawling in the aisle!
Now it so happened that I was sitting at the dead end of the aisle, which meant that I could see people walking up and down the stairs at all times. This little girl was now crawling up and down the stairs in pitch darkness! It was nerve-wracking! What if she slipped? What if she went rolling down the hill? What if..? Oh! It was more exciting than the hero jumping from building to building! I was getting more than my money’s worth! On-screen and live action at one go! In all this, her family was completely indifferent to her adventures and blissfully engrossed in the film!
The jerky boy, meanwhile, was alternating between periods of relative quietness – coinciding with action or song sequences on screen; and fits of pelvic thrusts, head spins, and body rolls – coinciding with emotional scenes or dialogues. I was convinced that by the time the end credits rolled on, he would have ripped the seat apart. I just hoped that I would still be in one piece!
In one magical moment, the off-screen action reached its climax, when the toddler girl had managed to crawl right up to our row, and the jerky boy reached out to her to baby-talk with her. What a moment! After that I didn’t care if the on-screen hero and heroine lived happily ever after or not!
I wondered how any of these parents could do this; let loose your little brat on an unsuspecting world and enjoy yourself! The whole experience was irritating, exciting, uplifting, exasperating and exhausting at the same time. Truly, you don’t go alone to the movie hall in our country; you go with the entire audience. You are part of the surging body of boisterous men and women and their children. You can never be aloof; it is a communal experience.
If you are unable to put up with all this, get yourself a home theatre system!