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?

When Bollywood met Cricket

Lalit Modi, whatever his other faults maybe, managed to combine the two biggest brands in India – Bollywood and Cricket.

Did he tweak some rules, do some under the table work for this? Maybe. (I was reading up about him wondering what exact career path the man had taken, and it never has been too clean. Anyway….) But the general public doesn’t really care about it. Infact, all of that might just add more intrigue to it. After all, Bollywood has the scandals of who is sleeping with whom and cricket, every since the match fixing scandal, is used to things like this as well.

And this is also a common man’s dream – all those beautiful women they see on the screen are now smiling at them standing a foot away… So I guess as long as the matches weren’t rigged, most fans will not just care but even forgive the ‘managerial’ issues.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before Sahara entered the picture, and there was “IPL Awards” ceremony. And when that happened, ShahRukh Khan was the most natural choice to host it, along with Karan Johar.

SRK is an entertainer. And a very astute businessman too (yes, KKR lost. But check their endorsements). But the man has molded himself into that exclusive ‘entertainer host’ position. I enjoy watching him any award ceremony… perhaps he is one of the few guys who has the clout to make certain statements and get away with it (Actually, I respect the guy ever since he refused to bow to the Shiv Sena over the My Name Is Khan movie) or the writers figure he can take a little heat, but the script is no longer politically correct. And in an atmosphere (both cricket and bollywood) where everyone is being saccherine sweet, that is such a relief.

He made Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly dress up women, Adam Gilchrist dance, he ragged Yuvraj Singh (that’s pretty much all I saw actually)… and it was fun. (And we’d like to imagine the ragging some of the guys would take in the locker room). As opposed to Bollywood where everyone is polished and tries to speak in english etc etc, cricket has (had?) people who were picked for talent one and are only one developing the pretenses. It is nice to see people from humble origins making it big… remember Yuvraj Singh when he first came? Before his playboy days? Virender Sehwag, who couldn’t speak english. Harbhajan Singh. OF course, that trend is fast changing. Fancy suits, shiny hair, dancing and white shoes.

I do wonder what will be the future of Indian cricket though? I mean… the national team is already using the IPL as an excuse for their pathetic performance in the World Cup. “Parties caused fatigue” apparently. Which is exclusive to Indians alone, the rest of the world played alright.

Haven’t football clubs been doing this forever? Can David Beckham complain about fatigue?

Oh well… considering the amount of money in both these industries and the public appeal, both of them had to come together on an official platform sooner or later. So yeah, it is a larger-than-life, all the money you can blow, all the booze you can drink fiesta which leaves people a little uneasy and extremely hung over when it is over. And makes some people who were in the right time at the right place, extremely rich.

The rest of us.. we watch, and we envy.

Side note: There were quite a few ads of paan (what is that rajnigandha sorts called) while the awards were on. And I notice there are several familiar faces now advertising these things. Have the people gotten cheap or these companies making so much money that they can hire these notable names for their ads now?
And Nirma found a new girl.. and she is no where as cute or hot as Sonali Bendre. Oh I miss those old ads!! The Liril girl dancing under the waterfall – most of them made in big in Bollywood, starting with Juhi Chawla. Sonali Bendre trying out bracelets in Nirma. That little girl in a white frock circling around and around for the Nirma Washing Powder (I even remember the jingle). And the Diary Milk ad – where the girl dances out into the field to hug the blushing batsman when he hits a six.
Most ads these days aren’t half as interesting. The cutest I’ve seen is the Tanishq one. Some don’t make sense. Some look good so you don’t mind that they don’t make sense. Some just have big names. And some have asses like the Reebok one. I did like the concept… of course, today I noticed that they showed only the shoes, no more butts.

Song of the day: aahun ahun – Love AAj Kal