Now there is a title most Hindi filmgoers will recognize, a clue being Vidya Balan. There is a lot of it to choose from now, mostly from the internet. Even what used to be on the cinema screen near you can be watched on the laptop with no sign of the ubiquitous VCR or the DVD player around.
That reminds me of the heartache the VCR used to give rise to, as it was my lot to operate and provide much-needed entertainment at home. It was a very unpredictable and very unfamiliar equipment whether because it was not very user-friendly or because I was still nervous around such an expensive acquisition I am not sure. But I think most people found it difficult to operate. Sourcing a VCD from a nearby video library was another enterprise in itself. Most VCDs were of dubious quality, being pirated or tending to be scratchy and refusing to run, and one never knew where the fault lay – in the tape or in the hardware. Despite that we watched several English and Hindi movies that we could never have seen in theaters, like the Return Of The Jedi, which I did not even know was an iconic movie and part of the Star Wars. So much so that when R objected to it and said I was allowing the children to watch rubbish, I had no reply. But I knew it was not rubbish. Then there were the Indiana Jones series which were great fun. But the VCR had only a brief life before we gave up on it and cable took over, to my relief.
Cable TV was an amazing improvement on Doordarshan which had ruled until then. But in its own way, Doordarshan had shaped our tastes with its Hum Log – a steady soap opera which was more a refection of life than the jerky TV serials that came later with their poor acting and sudden twists and stereotypes. There were even the short series that were based on literary masterpieces and rang true. The Ramayan on Doordarshan dictated the whole country’s timetable while it ran. But Cable TV came along and from being limited to a few hours in a day, the channels multiplied endlessly and became a 24 hour madness.
Now of course it is internet streaming which has taken over and perhaps is more in sync with our individual tastes. We pay and we choose what to watch and when to watch.
But still, when I went back to the cinema after a long hiatus, I found myself sitting in my plush seat and felt the thrill of the big screen and the acoustics of the Dolby as the screen came to life. I felt as excited as I had in my childhood as I waited for the picture to begin and the larger than life characters lived out the drama of make-believe.
This – this – was entertainment at its best. A good movie and a multiplex theatre – what more could one ask for? I will dispense with the popcorn and the soft drink though.