I used to watch a lot of cinema, back in the day. My flat mate had a keen eye for good quality cinema and would somehow find movies that struck a chord. We would watch movies from all over the world, English, Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Iranian, Korean, Russian, it did not matter. Every week we would go find a movie to watch. Cinema is extremely popular in my home country. Movie stars enjoy a god like status, and it would be an uphill battle for someone to get a ticket on the first week for a showing if the movie has a top star in it. Names like Rajnikanth, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachan, invoke such a passionate response from the audience. When I was younger, I have gone to movies with my friends just because an actor was starring in the film. Nothing else mattered, films had a set template for the most part. It was always a case of good getting the better of evil, some romance and comedy strewn between the scenes to appease the familial crowd and some dance numbers to keep the young men entertained. So, it was a little bit of a shock when I started to watch movies that did not fit the simplistic theme that I had grown up watching, I realized that movies also served as a canvas for the creators to portray a story. There were performances that blew you away, there were stories that tugged at emotions that I never knew existed. I started to add bit and pieces of characters I liked into my real life.
It is just not enough for the creators to show something that we can relate to, no one is paying any money to watch a day of my life even if a big movie star is playing my role (However unlikely that is). The fact remains that the story, action needs to resonate with a large group of people. While many actors have chosen to portray larger than real life characters who flamboyantly put the thugs in place, some have managed to etch their names by bringing social themes, cultures to the forefront. I was just fascinated by this whole account. Movies like Children of Heaven opened up my mind to world cinema. I was simply hooked to the idea that I could study cultures and societies from the comfort of my own couch.
As I got older, and I shed more of my inhibitions, I was able to engage more socially. Also, the age of super stardom had begun in India, movies became a vehicle of expression of the actors/actresses’ abilities. And just like that I dropped a habit that I had hours honing. Now, as I enter my 40’s a lot has changed again in my life and the world around me. I have lost the need to be a social person, I would rather curl up in my home with a book than be around people. The evolution in tech and streaming services mean access to faster internet, access to high-quality video streaming and smart gadgets. I had hoped having access to such diverse information would open up people yet surprisingly, toxic cultural traits that were hidden away have emerged to the forefront of society again. This makes me feel angry, sad, disappointed. I want an out something that will make me forget the miseries of life, something that will thrill me, entertain me. And like a moth drawn to flame I dive headfirst into the world of streaming services. The rush, the thrill after abstaining for so long is immediate, I indulge myself, binge watching comedy, drama, fantasy, action, crime drama. There is no dearth of content. I am blissfully numb.
But as in with any addictive behavior, there is a moment of clarity, where you know that you are just trying to deflect. At that moment you are left with two choices ignore the voice of reason and continue down the path of mindless entertainment or step out of the stupor. It is on one such day, I decided to watch Kumbalangi Nights. There is this moment from the film that made me realize what cinema is all about. Cinema tells you stories, portrays life as you know it, gives you glimpse of lives that we may never have to live and may entertain you as well. So if you are feeling lost in a maze of emotions, then put your feet up and watch a film once in a while you will never know what hit you.