Watching "FIllums" in India Vs. the USA
I love watching Indian films, whether it is Hindi, Telugu, Kannada or Tamil (these are languages I understand). It can be a MGR, Rajnikant, Shoban Babu, NTR, Nageshwar Rao, Chiranjeevi, Govinda, Amitabh, Aamir or Shivaji Ganesan (lubber vai) film, and I am equally impartial.
I am very partial to Govinda, who I think is a shrewd businessman. Govinda cuts through all the noise and has got his "funda"right. It is all about entertainment. Don't expect a logical and rational storyline. Basically when you watch any Indian film, you have to leave the logical and rational side of you behind. Govinda's father was a film producer, and not a succesful one...so basically Govinda grew up with a father whose films were not successful. It left a deep scar in Govinda is my take.
I am partial to all genres of Indian films. The film has to be really bad (like Pyaare Mohan) for me to walk out of theatre or switch off the DVD player. I have watched films in various stages of completion: right from rushes to the final product. I have watched rushes of many film, that is films in their raw form minus editing, re-recording, dubbing and the final touches. I have watched finished products in preview theatres, and I have watched films on their opening day complete with the first day, first show thingie.
I have sat wonder stuck in theatres watching Rajnikant films with the fans going stir crazy. I have heard people make grand pronouncements right after a preview show and declare, "This film will run for 100 days or Silver Jubilee." Words that are meaningless in today's world. If people pronounced it is a "100 days" film that meant the distributor is probably going to get his money back. If the film is pronounced to be "Silver Jubilee" that means it will run for 25 weeks in theatres and the producer of the film has a good chance of making some money. By the way Producers of films seldom make any money.
I have watched films in different parts of India: Madras,Vijaywada, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bombay and New Delhi. I have watched them in what "was" once considered to be cool theatres like the Safire and Emerald theatrs or Devi Cinema in Madras, or Priya in New Delhi, INOX in Mumbai or PVR in Bangalore. Never mind if I watch the film in Devi in Madras or Priya Cinema in New Delhi....it is almost always the same. It is always exciting to watch films in India. The whole experience is one of anticipation and expectation. Anticipation of the dialogues recited verbatim or ad nauseum by the crowd or the fans of the hero.
In India half the fun is watching the film in a theatre and anticipating how the crowd will react to the film.
Now, cut to the USA, the land of the brave and the home of the free. Watching films in a theatre in the USA is largely sterile experience. The $10 you pay for your ticket doesn't get you much in terms of the "thrill of watching the film on the first day." I have watched desi films in various parts of the country and can report that there is no difference in the experience.
The only difference I have discovered is in watching Tamil films in the San Francisco Bay area. This is when I have been able to recreate that familiar old feeling of watching a good old Indian film. For instance, I watched Rajni's "Padayapa" in a theatre in Milpitas and I felt right at home as though I was watching the film at Satyam. Devi or Anand in Madras . Here I was among hard-core Rajni fans who had abandoned their family and children for the evening to watch their suprerstar on silver screen. They identified totally with Rajni's character and knew where he was coming from. They felt his pain and happiness and recited his dialogs verbatim.
Many of us might not be in a position to catch new films in theatres in the USA. Often, we are reduced to renting a DVD or video from the nearest grocery store and watching the film at home. (By the way, the grocery store is the desi umblical cord to desh, wherever that might be in the South Asian sub-continent.) Many people in India might not be aware that the local Indian grocery store is our sole and tenuous connection to all things Indian: from the dal, chawal and aachar to renting the latest desi films of Aamir, Rajni and Mohanlal or buying the latest copy of India Today or Stardust.
For $2 dollars (Rs. 90) we can rent the latest and the greatest Indian film and watch it in the privacy of our home. Some of us have established elaborate rituals to watch our favorite desi films. We make pakoras and chai when we watch our favorite film, while others might trek down to the local theatre in San Jose, Milpitas, New York or Chicago and catch the latest desi film in a regular theatre (complete with a bad and stinky loo...why is it we can never have a really nice loo in these theatres?) I have yet to check out I the cinema theatre in Times Square in Manhattan and watch a desi film there. It is in my agenda of things to do.
I can honestly confess that there is no substitute to watching films in India. It is a whole different level of experience and one that I miss sorely when I am in the USA. When I am in India I make it a point to catch a couple of "fillums" in cinema theatres and have some rip-roaring fun.