Bollywood Nights

Raj Mandir Cinema, Jaipur
Raj Mandir Cinema, Jaipur

In my short time in India I have now been to the cinema twice. Both films were in Hindi with no subtitles, so I obviously missed most of the dialogue, but not quite all – both films included occasional English words and sentences throughout, mainly it seems when an exclamation point is required. The first film was “Secret Superstar”, a heartwarming tale of a young girl finding “fame” on YouTube while disguising her identity, so as not to incur the wrath of her violent father. The plot was simple and cliched enough to follow without understanding all the words being said and the songs were catchy in any language. The second film I watched was Golmaal Again, a kind of screwball comedy about a group of guys trying to protect their old orphanage from an evil property developer. In keeping with the time of year (Halloween back home) it also had some ghostly interventions. Again, I managed to follow the “plot” with no issues and a lot fo the comedy was weird or funny enough to need no translation.

Both trips were fun and gave me a view of how cinema is different in India to how it is back home.

Firstly, before both films the entire audience stood up for the national anthem. Apparently this is a relatively recent development and I really can’t imagine it happening back home at all. Apart from anything else, I’ve always found”God Save The Queen” to be a dull, plodding dirge of a tune. I know that might annoy some people as unpatriotic but I don’t equate not liking the tune or lyrics with not liking what it stands for. I just find that instead of rousing patriotic feelings it sends me to sleep like the droning of an air conditioner in a hostel dorm room. Anyway, the Indian national anthem is a lot better and puts you in a good mood – much better preparation for watching a film. Here, see for yourself…

The second difference between the cinema in India and back home in the UK is the almost constant noise and movement from the audience. People walked in and out of the auditorium throughout, conversations were in full flow, and the guy next to me received 3 separate phone calls during Secret Superstar. Followers of the wittertainment code of conduct (see below), such as I, have two choices. Either ignore everything you know and go with it, or stick to your principles and go for the exit. I chose to do the former. 

Wittertainment Code of Conduct
Wittertainment Code of Conduct

Thirdly, the choice of foods is more interesting in India. Yes, they have the popcorn and enormous soft drinks you would expect, but they also had a choice of veggie burgers, pizzas, nachos, sandwiches and in contrast to the UK, no confectionary. Most of the food is available immediately but you can also have it delivered to your seat if it’s not quite ready. Obviously this means someone walking across the screen during the film but given the number of people moving back and forth during the showing of Golmaal, one more person makes next to no difference at all.

Just over half way through both films the lights came on and we had an intermissions. This was a chance to buy yet more food, visit the toilets, and watch another 10 minutes of adverts (in the case of Secret Superstar anyway, the other intermission only had one advert right at the end). It was strange for the film to just stop, seemingly at random and was quite jarring as it felt almost mid-scene in Golmaal Again. 

Finally, as someone who is used to a more restrained crowd back in Blighty I was also surprised by the level of emotion in the audience. There were genuine cheers and clapping when the mother finally defied the evil father in Secret Superstar, shrieks of laughter when a Three Stooges inspired face slapping happened in Golmaal Again, and even I got something in my eye when the young girl won an award for her song at the end of Secret Superstar. Maybe it was Crowd Induced Lachrimosity Syndrome (a little known ailment related to AALS, HILS, PILS and DIAFLS). 

So in summary, my cinema trips in India have been nothing like my UK visits. They were noisy, punctuated with an unnecessary interval ,and with a constant flow of people in and out. I should have hated it but I had a great time. Hello to Jason Isaacs.

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