It has been two weeks since cinemas were allowed to open in Ahmedabad, but a quick check on BookMyShow reveals that only two have risen to the occasion so far. Located in the Western suburbs, both are screening old films like Godzilla vs Kong and Love Aaj Kal. Still, they may have an audience, for cinemas have always been more than just watching movies. In these harried times, they offer a few hours of respite from the pandemic, social distancing rules notwithstanding.
My friends have been buying monstrously large televisions to replicate the big-screen experience at home while watching OTT movies and serials. It doesn’t work. As long as you have a remote with a pause button, it’s just too tempting to take a break now and then, however big your television may be. The difference is like making pani puri at home versus eating it on the street. For the experience to be truly immersive, you have to surrender control.
Between the first and second waves of the pandemic, cinemas opened for a brief period. I am a film buff, so I hopped onto this opportunity and caught up on three movies. It was liberating! Hindi movies have always been dubbed “escapist” by highbrow critics. The description is only too apt in present times when everyone longs to escape the Covid gloom. These days, the virus creeps into every conversation whether you’re out on a vacation or at a café with friends. But in a movie hall, you can escape it for a while and immerse yourself in a different world, one without curfews and lockdowns.
With their superheroes and science fiction fantasies, I’ve found English movies to be as escapist as their Hindi counterparts. The first movie I saw in January, at the Cinepolis cinema in Ahmedabad One mall, was Tenet. My friends had assured me it was worth seeing on the big screen because of the visual and sound effects. There was also the draw of seeing our very own Dimple Kapadia in a pivotal role in a Hollywood film. There were just five of us appreciative filmgoers in the hall, and the experience was wonderful. After a year of deprivation, this outing reminded, of why we love going to the cinema.
I was back in Cinepolis two weeks later to watch Wonder Woman 1984, a film that’s much better than Tenet, if only because it is less complex and more entertaining. Wonder Woman is a superhero with a heart and the movie is light, like the Spiderman series, and not dark like the Batman series. It was an afternoon show. Once again, there were less than 10 of us in the hall, though the mall was buzzing.
The last movie I watched before the second wave closed down the cinemas again was a surprising little gem called Tom and Jerry. Surprisingly, because I didn’t have high expectations from the film, but just needed my fortnightly movie fix. Then the fact that the film has an Indian theme running through makes it instantly relatable. The movie is set in a New York hotel, where everyone is preparing for the celebrity wedding of an all-American groom and his Indian bride. The guy wants to impress his to-be in-laws with a big Indian wedding, which he imagines as an extravaganza featuring elephants and peacocks. So the cartoon characters Tom and Jerry end up having a lot more animated animals for a company in the mayhem that ensues. When I watched it at an evening show at the Wide Angle cinema, there were just three of us in the hall. Tom and Jerry subsequently became quite a hit and it is one of the movies currently playing in Ahmedabad theatres. Catch it if you can.