A Ticket for the Chennai Express

I cursed at the crawling traffic and wondered why people were not out of town since it was a long weekend.

Bangaloreans have a tradition. If it is the long weekend, most of the Bangalore crowd would be seen at one of the scenic locations 150-300 kms away from the city. This is one of the best things Bangalore has to offer… plenty of getaways within a few hours drive. But uncharacteristically, most of them seemed to have piled up on this huge road, honking and shouting like always.

The culprit on this particular evening turned out to be Chennai Express. Not the train. The movie.

It has been a while since I saw a movie cause a traffic jam. They used to be the norm at a theatre in South Bangalore, with the traffic crawling out at 8.45 PM and the new crowd waiting to get in. But with the arrival of multiplexes, you see massive lines outside malls and you don’t always think they are headed into the mall to watch a movie. 

These lines belong to the era of old Bangalore when watching a movie was an ‘event’. It was not as simple as sharing an event on Facebook either. You checked listings in the newspaper – and they were accurate 99 percent of the time and gave all the details and theatres – picked the 9.30 PM show at a theatre closest to you. The youngest boy of the family who was just old enough to ride would be sent to book tickets for the show, generally a day or two away. 

On the night in question, the entire family would squeeze into a car designed for 4 normal adults and head to the theatre. There was an air of anticipation. Nobody bought popcorn before the movie. You just wanted to get in, get into your chair and wait to watch those images on screen. 

There was always a prayer before the movie began, with that ‘certificate’ nobody could read. The mellow tunes of Yash Raj Films would be followed by a zippy number while the cast was listed. Of course, these were still times when SRK’s name would elicit some whistles. He was popular while we grew up. My friends dragged me to enough shows on Sunday mornings for me to know that. The movies were entertaining. 

The interval was time for food. You had sated your appetite for stardom enough to think about the other kind of food. Popcorn, fryums, pepsi, perhaps a samosa. You munched on the popcorn, as the movie gained pace and reached some, usually happy, ending. You came out feeling righteous or romantic or whatever the movie intended you to feel. You hashed it over with your family as you squeezed back into the car. You replayed your favorite scene in your mind as your drifted off to sleep. You wished an uncle or aunt would come to town while the movie was still playing so you could watch it again. Or you could wait, you thought, till it played on TV. If you were lucky, the video tapes would be out soon. Or the DVDs.

Those were the days when there were massive jams outside movie theatres. 

It was refreshing to see the lines outside a theatre again, that too a dying one. I didn’t think Chennai Express would be the movie to get people back into the theatre in droves, but whatever works. For all the complaints I have against Shah Rukh Khan, there hasn’t been another star in our generation who can get people into the theatre like him. No, Aamir Khan doesn’t elicit his kind of a response for all his awesome movies and neither does Salman Khan’s jhakaas moves. It might not be intelligent cinema, there might not be a plot. There might not even be a brain cell left when you come out. But he does what movies were supposed to do – entertain.

Still… It doesn’t make me wanna line up outside the theatre. What does that say about me?

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