What’s The Way Ahead For The Movie Theatres?

Last week I  drove down to  a multiplex  in Patna for my screening of  Roohi, a movie about spooks, ghosts  and chaudails. Aptly the mall looked like  a ghost town. The  liftman Braj  whom  I  was seeing after a  year was happy to see me. “Sir,aap  bina screening  ke kaise  reh gaye  eksaal?” he asked.

Good question. The  choice was, and continues  to be, between  braving the Covid and  watching films  at home.  Much as I  prefer  watching my films on the  big screen I’d rather  live and watch them at home. At the same time the temptation to return to the  movie theatres was great.So there I  was with  my friend and another couple who  have always been  a part of all my screenings.

For more than two hours  I forgot the Covid. That’s the magic of  the movie theatre. It transports you to another world, carries you away into its  own universe, makes you impervious   of  the real world.  How can we experience the same joy and magic watching a film on the  computer or ,worse, on the phone?

What relevance  would Pakeezah  or  Devdas  or even Roohi have  on a phone screen?

Pulling me   back to reality  was the  information that  awaited me at  home  after I was swathed in  joy for two hours. The  producers  of this week’s other release Time To Dance had decided  to  cancel their press screenings in view  of  the rising Covid cases in Maharashtra.Sooryavanshiwon’t release on April 2 either . But Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga  is still on   next week  even as  a new wave of Covid hits  humanity.

Mumbai, you might as well know, has another saga  to tell. My  dear friend Sanjay Bhansali has been  hit by the virus. I  don’t know what I  can do to make him feel better,  except send  him his favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs every day. They are  working better than any medicine for Covid.   I am convinced more than ever that Lataji is therapeutic  . She  doesn’t agree with me, though. She thinks  social distancing works better than her songs. Little  does she know.

  For all  of us who had hoped that 2021 would  fix the damage  done  in 2020, the  writing is  clear on the silver screen. Covid is  here to stay. Deal with it.Return to the movie theatre at your own  risk. I have.  Wish me  luck.

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