Once upon a time, movie-going was an event!
The selection of the movie, the theatre, time, getting appropriately dressed, mode of transport, reaching on time – all this was a given, irrespective of whom you are going with, family, friends or hot date! Once you arrived, the feeling of excitement on entering the lobby and awe when transiting to the audi – be it in some small Tier 2 metro or plush A-lister city landmarks like Metro, Regal, Eros, Maratha Mandir & Liberty or Lighthouse, Elite, Globe, New Empire & Minerva. And of course, when the lights dimmed [after you sank into your seat] and the curtains parted, magic took over! It was an abject, unconditional and wilful suspension of disbelief, a happy surrender of self to partake in a 3-hour journey to the never-never-land-of-happy-ever after!
Today, with the Lockdown locking us out from movie halls & streaming platforms, gathering unstoppable momentum regarding inroads to the audience’s hearts, is it time to go misty-eyed over the theatre experience and silently bid RIP to them or shift lanes to salute the new-age digital age which provides us the unthinkable opportunity to enjoy films, entertainment, sports & news, across TV, computers or smart phones, whenever & wherever you wish …?
Who better to open the batting than the Veteran Producer of memorable art-house films [Rajnigandha, Shatranj ke Khilari, Katha] Suresh Jindal. “Yaar, for me, it’s a non-issue! It’s like when the VCR first arrived and threatened movies, I said, it’s like comparing a bunch of people converging under a Pepul tree, eating, laughing, chatting, arguing while watching a performance/play in front of them… to a group, single-mindedly fixated, with full attention and concentration on the proceedings in a church! Total silence and focus. It’s the same here.” Jindal believes that while Streaming certainly offers benefits and advantages, it can never replicate the movie-theatre experience.” People who’ve expressed thrill at being able to see the film of their choice at home, wearing a lungi, relaxed, with a drink in their hands, now say they’re fed up with house-arrest and want out! C’mon, man is a social animal and once the theatres open, mark my words, it’ll be Business as Usual.” Another respected theatre and screen veteran echoes similar thoughts. Articulates Joyoshree Arora
“Sitting at home with a remote in my hand and watching films on TV is okay for time pass – but it’s in no way the real thing! The excitement of going to a film, the dressing up, the coffee & popcorn, the clapping, laughing, cheering, crying, community watching … can that ever be duplicated?”
Arora insists that Cinema is for the big screen and the high that a movie theatre offers can never ever come sitting at home & watching a film while constantly being distracted & disturbed by events, playing out, stuff like “Memsaab, sugar khatam ho gaya” or “Darling, can’t find my belt” or “Mommy, what’s wrong with you? Where’s that phone number?!”
Super actor Adil Hussain hits a different track and brings his own special spin. He confesses that both as an actor & audience, he is totally familiar with this platform and is of the opinion that both can happily co-exist and there’s no reason for either/or. “Of course, Cinema was born for the big screen but like many things, can adapt to the changing twists & turns as we go along. In my book, Technology can be a Good Cop and the Streaming platforms – Netflix, Amazon, Disney, etc. – can and do provide marvellous & unprecedented opportunities to view fresh, exciting & engaging content that are vigorous, vibrant & versatile. At a personal level I guess for someone like me, it works on a different level. For one, its intimate and isolated viewing so it creates & establishes a very unique bond between audience & content. It’s like there’s a personal & private conversation on between us, minus any distractions. Then in terms of content, lots of material that can/will never come on the big screen enters the space with all cylinders firing – dark, complex, esoteric – and challenges my way of looking at cinema while inviting me to expand my horizons. It can be quite addictive!” It’s like a large library with amazing choices. You can explore, discover, return, pause and savour them at your own pace.” Reputed Ad & Feature Film [Neerja] Director Ram Madhvani winds up the debate in style. “I agree with Adil that each have their own space, bandwidth & compulsions and the secret is to leverage what works for what. When TV hit the USA, Hollywood was threatened but acted fast, by countering it with content that can never fit into the TV format in terms of scale & scope. That’s what we need to attempt here and a lot of excellent work has already happened. It also opens up choices for directors, writers & actors towards investing new, fresh and engaging stories that entertain, enrich, even empower audiences. However, these are early days and the journey has just begun …”
So, what gives? For me, this New Normal provides excitement galore as this game changer is all set to offer you virtual movie dates! Suddenly, you can not only choose from a wide range of content, you can also choose your interval and timing too! Gulabo Sitabo was the first big release in this new platform. Bollywood, forever committed to provide manoranjan to the [now, more than ever] bored masses have leapt onto this Home Delivery avenue. Laxmi Bomb, Dil Bechara, Sadak 2, Big Bull & Bhuj are only some starrers that are all set to hit the small screens soon. Await more of Lights! Camera! Action! Announcements from the virtual world aglow with challenges & opportunities. Clearly Streaming Platforms is an idea whose time has come!